Category: Lawn & Garden


The Dos and Don’ts of Poinsettia Care

If you want to enjoy festive blooms all season—and even beyond—pay attention to these best (and worst) practices.

Poinsettia Care - Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com

During the holidays, nothing rivals the floral festivity of the season’s favorite plant: the always colorful poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima). Whether you prefer the traditional red variety or favor hybridized pastel pinks and yellows, you’ll want to provide the best poinsettia care in order to enjoy the plant’s showstopping blooms as long as possible. Simply abide by these six best practices—and avoid the six biggest mistakes—when tending to this ornamental houseplant.

DO Purchase the Healthiest Plant You Can Find

When shopping for a poinsettia, choose a stocky plant with dense foliage that’s deep green in color, and pass on plants with yellowing or dropped leaves. The colorful flowers, called bracts, should be firm with little or no pollen visible in the center.

 

DON’T Forget to Protect the Plant in the Car

Some stores sell poinsettias in cellophane cones that will protect the plant from wind damage, but if it’s bitterly cold outside, the bracts and leaves could still suffer. Ask for a larger bag to put over the top of your plant to protect it on the trip to the car and into your home.

 

DO Position Your Poinsettia in a Well-Lit Location

A southern window is ideal. Poinsettias benefit from plenty of direct daytime light to keep them from getting leggy. If a sunny window isn’t available, choose as bright a spot as possible.

 

DON’T Let the Leaves Touch a Freezing Windowpane

Poinsettias are tropical plants typically grown in greenhouses, so despite their popularity in winter, they despise the cold. Any leaves that press against an icy window after you position the plant in your home will perish, and the chill could even affect the health of the poinsettia as a whole. Prevent an untimely demise by setting your poinsettia safely on a table in front of a window rather than on a windowsill.

 

DO Make Sure Your Plant Gets Adequate Darkness

In order for those red or white flowers to last more than a month, poinsettias require more than 12 hours of darkness during their peak bloom period. If you’ve placed the plant in a room that you keep lit all evening, just move it to a darker room, closet, or shadowy corner when the sun sets, then put it back in the window the next morning.

 

Poinsettia Care - Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com

DON’T Put Your Poinsettia in a Drafty Spot

The tender leaves and bracts wilt in windy conditions, so keep your plant away from open windows, forced-air registers, and fans.

 

DO Water Your Plant

Poinsettias should be watered whenever the soil surface feels dry to the touch. The best way to water the plant is to move it, pot and all, to the sink and soak it thoroughly. Let it drain until no more water runs out—this will take about an hour—and then place it back in its spot.

 

DON’T Let Your Poinsettia Stand in Water

Sure, soaking your poinsettia’s soil is the best way to quench its thirst, but be sure to pull off the shiny foil wrapper that came tucked around the pot before you water it. Though pretty, this wrapping prevents the water from draining out, leaving the poinsettia’s soil saturated and roots soggy. Waterlogged roots stress the plant and can lead to leaf-dropping—or worse, a short life.

 

DO Prune Your Poinsettia If You Plan to Reflower It Next Year

Follow the poinsettia care tips outlined so far, and you may find that your houseplant survives from winter into spring—or even longer. If you plan on keeping it around, prune the stems back to six inches when the plant begins to get leggy, and continue to place it in a sunny spot that’s about 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue to water just as you did before, and feed your poinsettia regularly every two weeks after they’ve stopped blooming with a standard houseplant fertilizer. New shoots will eventually develop at the buds below the cuts. In late spring, when overnight temps outdoors are above 50 degrees, prune new shoots back to four inches and sink your poinsettia—pot and all—into a protected spot in your flower bed and let it stay there until early fall when overnight temps dip back into the 40s. While year-round poinsettia care takes commitment on your part, you’ll be rewarded with an even-larger floral wonder the following holiday season.

 

DON’T Leave a Large Poinsettia in a Tiny Pot

As a poinsettia grows over the summer, its roots grow as well, and they can get cramped in a small pot. So, when you bring your poinsettia indoors after its spring and summer sojourn in the flower bed, be sure to transfer it into a larger planter. Repotting keeps the plant from becoming root-bound. Choose a new pot about two inches wider and an inch or two deeper than your current pot to give your poinsettia’s roots room to spread out during the coming fall growing season and help stimulate foliage growth and bloom production.

 

DO Keep Pets Away from Poinsettia

One thing pretty much everyone knows about poinsettia care is the importance of keeping poinsettias out of the reach of furry members of the family. While scare stories link the plants to pet poisoning, the milky sap of the poinsettia actually contains low-toxicity chemicals that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and itchiness if a pet eats a large amount. Even though the risk is pretty low, don’t chance it. Keep your plant away from Fluffy or Fido.

 

DON’T Hesitate to Call Your Vet If Your Animal Eats It (Just in Case)

The pesticides used at garden centers and nurseries could cause reactions if your pet ingests poinsettia leaves, especially if you have a very young animal. If you’re concerned about persistent or severe symptoms, call your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. A consultation fee may apply.

 

Poinsettia Care - Do's and Don'ts

Photo: istockphoto.com


All You Need to Know About Mulch Types

If you plan to insulate your soil with mulch before the seasons change, first learn which type of material best meets your needs.

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Types of Mulch

Photo: istockphoto.com

Mulch may not be a miracle cure for all that ails your garden, but according to professional gardeners and arborists, it certainly comes close! A wide variety of materials fall under the heading of mulch, but they all share one basic purpose: improving soil conditions. Among its long list of benefits, mulch insulates the soil from temperature extremes, locks in moisture, keeps weeds at bay, prevents soil compaction, and protects sensitive plantings from damage by weed whackers and lawn mowers. Plus, virtually all types of mulch can give planting beds an attractive, manicured, and well-maintained appearance. Broadly speaking, homeowners select from two basic types of mulch: organic and inorganic.

Organic mulches—hardwood and softwood chips, bark, evergreen needles, leaves, grass clippings, compost mixes, newspaper and cardboard, and a variety of other plant byproducts—consist of materials that decompose over time. Work any of these into the soil and they can improve soil fertility, aeration, structure, and drainage as they decompose. Because organic mulches decompose, they must be replenished on a regular basis, but most landscape professionals prefer organic mulches because of the many benefits they bring to the soil.

Inorganic mulches, on the other hand, include various types of materials that do not decompose and therefore do not need to be replenished very often, if ever. These options include rock, stone, lava rock, crusher dust, pulverized rubber, landscape fabrics, and other man-made materials. Inorganic mulches are ideal for decorative use and controlling weeds. Because rocks and stones absorb and reflect heat, they have the advantage of warming the soil for early spring planting of fruits and vegetables, but can be detrimental to plants during periods of hot, dry weather.

When you’ve decided you’re ready to start reaping the many benefits of mulch, you’re not limited to just the standard by-the-bag chips from your local home improvement center—you’ve got options! Homeowners have access to a wide range of mulch types. Select one that best suits your landscaping project based on its local availability, cost, appearance, quality, and durability. Here are some of the types of mulch that should be on your radar.

 

Types of Mulch - Wood Chips

Photo: istockphoto.com

ORGANIC MULCH: Wood Chips, Nuggets, or Bark
Both hardwood and softwood bark, chips, and nuggets—byproducts of the lumber and paper industries—are typically aged and dried, and sometimes even dyed red or black, then sold in bags. Hardwood works best around trees, shrubs, and in perennial beds, while softwood (typically made from pine) should be reserved for use around large trees and shrubs. Pine tends to be slightly more acidic and therefore takes longer to decompose than other organic mulches. Check with your local municipality before you head to the home improvement center; many offer freshly ground tree mulch to homeowners at no charge. This fresh material is neither dried or aged, so use it only for walkways, as it leaches large amounts of nitrogen from the soil as it decomposes.

 

Types of Mulch - Straw

Photo: istockphoto.com

ORGANIC MULCH: Straw
Clean wheat, barley, or oat straw is ideal for lightly mulching newly seeded lawns. The straw mulch keeps the grass seed from washing away, deters feeding birds and rodents, and, until it decomposes, conserves the moisture the seeds need for good germination. When you’re shopping for mulch, don’t confuse straw with hay. You should avoid the latter, which contains seeds that could sprout up as weeds in your garden.

 

Types of Mulch - Grass Clippings

Photo: istockphoto.com

ORGANIC MULCH: Grass Clippings or Shredded Leaves
No need to shop around—you can make your own organic mulch using nothing more than grass clippings or shredded leaves. Leaf mulch is ideal for use in garden beds and around trees and shrubs, while grass clippings may be spread in thin layers across vegetable and perennial beds and then turned into the soil at the end of the growing season. Be careful not to apply in thick layers, or else the material will mat. Also, don’t save the clippings from lawns that have been treated with herbicides or insecticides.

 

Types of Mulch - Shredded Newspaper

Photo: flickr.com via jannanab

ORGANIC MULCH: Newspaper or Cardboard
Shredded black-and-white newspaper or undyed natural cardboard can be used as an effective weed suppressant. Apply two to three layers at a time, then cover with another heavier organic material, such as leaves or grass clippings, to hold the lightweight mulch in place. Take care not to mix in colored newspaper or coated cardboard; these do not decompose readily and may even expose your garden to toxic dyes.

 

Types of Mulch - Cocoa Shells

Photo: bandbbedding.com

ORGANIC MULCH: Cocoa Chips
Popular for their rich color and pleasant scent, cocoa bean hulls are lightweight, easy to handle, and appropriate for all planting areas. Don’t apply more than one inch or water excessively, because cocoa chips already decompose quickly—and since they’re a pricier option, you won’t want to have to do more than an annual application. If you have pets or wildlife, you should avoid cocoa mulch, as chocolate and its byproducts can be fatal to animals if consumed.

 

Types of Mulch - Composted Manure

Photo: istockphoto.com

ORGANIC MULCH: Composted Animal Manure
Nothing beats well-composted, nutrient-rich animal manure when it comes to mulch for vegetables. Two words of caution, however, before you add this type of mulch to your garden bed: Fresh manure burns plant roots, and dog, cat, and pig manure can harbor disease-causing organisms—avoid all of the above!

 

Types of Mulch - Lava Rock

Photo: istockphoto.com

INORGANIC MULCH: Rock or Crusher Dust
Lava rock, crushed gravel or crusher dust, marble chips, and pea gravel will not break down, making them a popular option for walks and pathways, thanks to their one-time investment of cost and labor. Avoid using stones around trees, shrubs, and other plants, however, because they won’t effectively retain moisture and can cause heat stress on plants through reflection as well as ground heating, which can burn roots.

 

Types of Mulch - Landscape Plastic

Photo: istockphoto.com

INORGANIC MULCH: Landscape Plastic or Fabric
Plastic polyethylene film is impermeable, which means that water and other nutrients cannot pass through. While this quality makes it ideal as a short-term weed killer, plastic is not suitable for long-term use. If you employ it to warm the soil around fruit and vegetable plants, you’ll have to install an irrigation system under the plastic, or water your plants by hand to make sure they get adequate moisture. Remove the plastic at the end of the growing season to keep it from deteriorating in the sunlight, and then replace it the following year.

Landscape fabric is a better choice for long-term use, as it suppresses weeds but also allows air and water to pass through; however, it is a more expensive material. Landscape fabric is best used with a layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips, on top.

 

Types of Mulch - Rubber

Photo: istockphoto.com

INORGANIC MULCH: Rubber
Rubber mulch—manufactured from recycled, pulverized tires—is inexpensive and highly durable, which makes it perfect for high-traffic areas, such as playgrounds. Leave it out of your home landscaping projects, though; rubber mulch does not decompose, and some studies indicate that toxins found in the rubber can actually leach into the soil.

 

Beginner mulchers, beware: There can be too much of a good thing. Over-mulching, especially erecting “mulch volcanoes” around the bases of trees and shrubs, can lead to problems with insect and rodent infestation. Plus, mulch that is too deep can cause a buildup of excess moisture in the root zone, which can stress the plant and lead to root rot. Most professionals recommend limiting your layer of mulch to a depth of between two and four inches.


Beyond Security: 3 More Reasons to Install a New Floodlight

Despite being an essential for basic nighttime safety and home security, outdoor lighting upgrades are often passed over for other easy exterior updates that directly affect a home's curb appeal quotient. After living with a new and improved floodlight for a week, this homeowner discovered three surprising reasons to prioritize this simple switch.

Installing a Floodlight

Photo: Glenda Taylor

Where I live out in the country, the nights can be very dark—no city lights down the street, and nothing more than the stars (as long as it isn’t cloudy) to cast a dim light. But early sunsets this time of year don’t dictate when I arrive home, so I still find myself stumbling and feeling my way around the corner of the garage in the black of night so that I can find the winding sidewalk that leads to my back door. It’s an all-too-familiar scene for many homeowners, arriving home well past sunset to a darkened house and shadowy yard.

Even when I knew I’d be getting home after dark, I could never justify leaving the porch light on all day. There’s no sense in wasting all that energy and shortening bulb life! That meant that my covered patio’s light only really got use when I was spending the evening outdoors, and didn’t really offer much in the way of safety. I needed to upgrade to a motion-activated light, but not any old model. I was holding out for one with LED technology for high illumination at reduced operating costs to provide visibility from the sidewalk, up the porch steps, and to my keypad door lock. Enter the new Eaton Revolve 270° LED Floodlight.

After less than 20 minutes of “out with the old, in with the new,” I can never go back. Besides crossing all of the checkboxes I had, my new light went above and beyond with three pleasant surprises.

 

1. Illumination coverage can be adjustable.

Traditional floodlights illuminate in a circular pattern, creating a strong spotlight effect in the center but fading away at the edges. The Eaton Revolve LED Floodlight, however, features three individual optics that can be manually rotated 360-degrees to cast three separate beams of light exactly where you need them most. That meant I could point one optic toward my back door, aim another down the sidewalk that connects the patio and garage, and direct the third toward a corner of the patio where I’ll soon install the steps and walk that lead to my small garden house. No more shadows, no more tripping—just clearly lit pathways whenever activated by movement within 50 feet of the light fixture!

 

2. Unnoticeable, even attractive, floodlights do exist.

In the past, when I’ve searched for a floodlight, the last thing I’d worry about was a good-looking design. As far as I knew, the market was full of a lot of the same: obvious, industrial-looking lights. The Revolve LED floodlight, however, managed to merge form and function. Its low-profile housing tucks up under my covered porch just so that, unless you’re looking for it, you’ll pass right underneath without ever knowing it’s there during daylight hours. Even if you do catch a glimpse, you’ll see that its housing is sleek, fashionable, and thankfully without the large, unsightly reflectors that come standard on traditional models.

 

Installing a Floodlight - Process Shot

Photo: Glenda Taylor

3. Replacing my old light was a snap.

Replacing any old light fixture can be intimidating—sometimes enough so to delay an upgrade—but the Revolve LED simplifies the process. Instead of holding a light in one hand while you attempt to connect old wires directly to the light itself, you have two hands free throughout the most technical aspects of the job.

Once I removed my old light, which was brimming with dead insects, I quickly connected the home’s electrical wiring to an adapter cable using wire nuts that would easily snap to the light’s wiring. Then, threaded through the center of the light’s mounting plate (which I secured to the soffit’s structure with screws), all I had to do was hook the cords together and tuck the extra length neatly into the junction box. Voila! The light was wired.

Already an easy installation, the cherry on top was the that the floodlight’s screws came pre-inserted. When you’re teetering on a ladder, balancing a light, and trying to run screws into the mounting bracket, this little convenience is a godsend. All I had to do was align the screws on the light fixture with the raised holes on the mounting bracket, and I could tighten them with a Phillip’s head screwdriver in one go.

One word of advice for installation: The Revolve LED floodlight is not a wimpy light. The die cast aluminum fixture weighs nearly 5 lbs, so make sure the light box in your soffit or ceiling is firmly attached to a joist or to structural blocking wherever you choose to install it. The soffit material, itself, won’t be enough to support this light.

 

Installing a Floodlight - Eaton Revolve

Photo: Glenda Taylor

Though only up and running for few days so far, I’m already pleased my new directional floodlight. Experimenting with the motion detector’s sensitivity settings helped me find the “sweet spot” that recognizes a visitor walking along the sidewalk but won’t activate whenever a moth flutters by. Plus, I’ve customized the light duration for just the amount of time it takes for me to get to the door, unlock it, and enter. Perhaps the only thing missing from my outdoor lighting now is a matching floodlight in the soffit out above the center stall of my three-car garage! After my experience with this first one, I won’t be hesitating to make an installation like this again.

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Eaton. The opinions and text are all mine.


Bob Vila Radio: Planning a Pet-Friendly Yard

With all the weeding, fertilizing, and mowing most of us do, it's easy to understand why some homeowners don't want to leave their lawn and garden to the dogs (literally!). But with a few tweaks, your pets and yard can live in perfect harmony.

Cats and dogs need just as much time outside as people do, but designing a safe space for pets and protecting your landscape is trickier than it looks.

Photo: istockphoto.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PET-FRIENDLY YARDS or read below:

Start with the basics, and keep them corralled with a good fence. Wood, metal, and vinyl will all work, as long as the construction is solid. If you have a cat, top your fence with a roller bar attachment. For a dog that loves getting their paws dirty, try buying or building a sandpit so they can burrow away from the garden. And when it comes to safety, every owner can help prevent scuffles with wildlife by keeping pets inside during prime feeding times: dawn, dusk, and overnight.

When it’s time to pick out plants, opt for hardier varieties with soft foliage, like Artemisia or lilacs. Avoid foxglove, lily-of-the-valley, mums, lilies, and cocoa mulch, all of which can be toxic to pets. If you’re planning to add on to your garden, think about the paths you’re creating for prowling and patrolling—and remember to leave a shady spot free for napping between adventures. Consider installing a small circulating fountain too, so your pet will always have access to fresh water.

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! Hack a Bookcase for Healthier Houseplants

Fall and winter can be deadly for houseplants, especially if your space isn't sunny enough to give them the nutrients they need. Here's how to convert your bookcase to keep your plants alive—and inside—all year long.

diy-grow-light

Photo: rodalesorganiclife.com

Millennia ago, Roman philosopher Marcus Cicero wrote, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” For Willi Evans Galloway, a seasoned pro who literally wrote the book on growing your own food, it’s a lesson worth building on. Have the library part down, but your houseplants can’t seem to survive the transition indoors for the winter? Experts recommend installing a grow light, but—as Galloway aptly puts it—“who wants a shop light hanging in their living room?” We couldn’t agree more, and that’s why her ingenious bookshelf conversion works for more than just bibliophiles.

Nearly everyone wants to host a plant or two at home, as long as they’re hassle-free. But with limited light and low humidity levels, creating ideal growing conditions can get complicated—and that’s where this DIY grow light project really shines! The top interior of an otherwise ordinary bookshelf hoists the fluorescent fixture that provides a steady source of artificial rays, even in poorly lit or windowless rooms. Meanwhile, its electrical cord travels from the back of the mounted light and slips through a small hole in the back panel and into the nearest wall outlet. Add an extension cord, and you really can grow anywhere.

Thanks to the DIY grow light, plants (even finicky herbs and vegetables) set on a shallow tray filled with water and pebbles can survive almost anything—even a whole year indoors. As water evaporates under the heat of the light, the tray transforms into an all-natural humidifier, counteracting harmful dry air. For even more control, plug an automatic light timer into the fixture to set your own customize hours of light exposure.

Galloway’s houseplant hack is as beneficial for budding gardeners as it is for ravenous readers. Tucking the bulky grow light inside the shelf and pulling the cord through the back keeps the focus on both of your growing collections. And since it’s easily adapted to a taller bookcase, you’ll have plenty of space below for books, mementos, or magazines in your new living library.

FOR MORE: Rodale’s Organic Life

diy-grow-light-1

Photo: rodalesorganiclife.com

 

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.


Weekend Projects: 5 Designs for a DIY Hanging Planter

Perfect for indoor or outdoor use, these DIY hanging planters will help you hold on to your summer greenery and transition it smoothly into winter.

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‘Tis the season for winterizing your garden, a task that gives you the opportunity to bring your most beloved plants indoors. What better way to display these seasonal visitors than on a perch in your direct line of vision? (And one that takes hardly any counter space, at that.) Get inspired by these five DIY hanging planters that make it a cinch to showcase your favorite greenery and protect it from the chilly weather ahead.

FLOATING FLORA

DIY Hanging Planters

Photo: abeautifulmess.com

Although glass terrariums are a sleek, functional way to showcase prized greenery, the price of a store-bought glass design can be steep. Take a cue from A Beautiful Mess and make your own budget-friendly version instead—from none other than a clear plastic fishbowl (or two or three, depending on how many plants you’d like to display). Turn each transparent bowl on its side for easy watering, but enjoy an unobstructed view of your buds from nearly any seat in your living space.

 

GO VERTICAL

DIY Hanging Planters

Photo: iheartnaptime.net

Raise not one, not two, but four terra-cotta pots off the floor using this vertical planter from I Heart Naptime. The best part? Scrap wood and rope are all you’ll need to build it—and likely already on hand! Although the rustic display looks great with succulents, you could also build your own hanging herb garden with each seasoning—from basil to rosemary—displayed at a different height.

 

TEARDROP TRIUMPH

DIY Hanging Planters

Photo: vintagerevivals.com

This faceted teardrop planter from Vintage Revivals elevates your greenery, both in height and in elegance. And because it requires so little in the way of supplies, the finished project is a steal, costing only about $15 to assemble. You’ll need round brass tubing, floral wire, and a mini tubing cutter before you can get to work. Then, all that’s left to do is channel those geometry skills. With a bit of patience, you’ll be able to string this DIY hanging planter together in a few hours.

 

RECYCLED BLOOMS

DIY Hanging Planters

Photo: helloglow.co

Instead of sending empty coffee creamer containers to the recycling bin, use them to fashion this hanging planter, as demonstrated by Hello Glow. Creamer containers are typically plastic, so use scissors (or an X-Acto knife) to carefully remove the tops and fill the majority of the containers with potting soil and greenery to turn the canisters into a tall planter. Holes poked in its sides for threaded twine make it ready to hang! A fresh coat of colorful paint is optional, but it really dresses up the planter.

 

HANGING HOOP

DIY Hanging Planter

Photo: northstory.ca

Do you have a few extra needlepoint supplies lying around? If so, follow this tutorial from Northstory for a different sort of craft: creating a lovely DIY hanging planter. All this one-of-a-kind design requires is an embroidery hoop and a ceramic bowl. Glue the two materials together and let them bond overnight; the next day, you can hang your upcycled creation from a length of rope, and admire your gorgeous greenery as it sways in the breeze.


All You Need to Know About Soil Types

Is your soil chalky, sandy, or silty? Is it acid or alkaline? Before you put in a flower garden, add some trees, or plant your vegetables, figure out what type of soil you're dealing with and how best to amend it to have the healthiest, most flourishing plants ever.

Soil Types

Photo: istockphoto.com

Every gardener wants to grow the best-tasting tomatoes, the brightest zinnias, and the healthiest shrubs, but no one type of soil will guarantee success for each of those types of plants. Soil type—which is a classification determined by texture and relative proportions of sand, silt, and clay—will define the dirt’s ability to retain nutrients and moisture and therefore what it’s suitable to grow. Sure, you can always guess at the properties of your soil, but in order to aid your soil in producing its best crop, take a soil sample to your local extension agency and have it tested. For a minimal fee, you can find out the soil type (or types, because there are varying degrees), its pH level, and how it can be improved. Read on for the most common soil types, how they affect your landscaping projects, and how to better yours using the right products.

BEFORE YOU START: UNDERSTANDING AND ADJUSTING SOIL pH

Your soil’s pH value is a measurement of its acid-forming capacity. The pH scale numbers from 1.0 to 14.0. Values below 7.0 indicate soil in the acidic range, and the lower the number, the greater the soil’s acid-forming ability. Values higher than 7.0 are in the alkaline range, and the higher the number, the greater the soil’s alkalinity. Soil pH that falls within the slightly acidic range, between 6.0 and 7.0, is considered optimal for most plants and flowers. Amend soils that are too acidic with the application of products that contain lime or wood ash. To reduce alkalinity, apply a product that contains aluminum sulfate, urea, or elemental sulfur.

 

Soil Types - Clay Soil is Good for Wisteria

Photo: istockphoto.com

SOIL TYPE: CLAY
BEST FOR: Woody, moisture-loving perennials

Clay soil particulates are so tiny that they pack tightly together, locking in moisture and nutrients, but restricting oxygen and drainage. Till clay soil only when it’s bone dry to prevent creating rock-hard clods. Amend clay soil by adding a thick, three- to four-inch layer of mulch (dry leaves or bagged wood chips) in the fall, and then allow it to remain on top of the soil all winter long, waiting until spring to till it under. Work additional organic matter into the soil in spring before planting to reduce compaction and promote drainage.

Most types of soil, including clay, which tends to be slightly alkaline, will benefit from the addition of organic matter. Organic matter is often vegetal, meaning it comes from plants or trees, and includes substances such as dried leaves, straw, wood chips, and even cardboard; animal-related organic matter—manure from cows, goats, chickens, and llamas—contains a wide variety of micro- and macronutrients for soil-amending wherever you are growing (or plan to grow) plants. Fresh manure can burn any existing tender plants and kill seedlings, so aim to apply a layer of fresh manure in late fall and allow it to winter over before tilling it under in spring for the best results.

Woody perennials, such as wisteria, tend to do well in non-amended clay soil. Because clay is high in nutrients, with frequent amending to increase drainage and airflow, you can even expand its growing ability to accommodate a variety of vegetables, shrubs, and flowering plants.

 

Soil Types - Sandy Soil is Good for Crepe Myrtle Trees

Photo: istockphoto.com

SOIL TYPE: SANDY
BEST FOR: Drought-tolerant plants

Made of up ground rock particles, sandy soil neither holds the amount of moisture nor retains the vital nutrients needed to grow many types of vegetables and flowering plants. Homeowners with sandy soil should mix in organic matter every spring and fall to expand its growing ability. The added organic matter acts like a sponge to suck up moisture and retain it, making it available to plant roots for a longer period.

Depending on the type of rock particles and other matter your soil contains, its pH level could be in the acidic or slightly alkaline range. If your soil is sandy and you don’t intend to amend it, limit your garden landscape to plants that thrive even when their roots dry out between waterings. California poppies, crape myrtle, cleome, gazania, yarrow, and cosmos all do well in sandy soil with regular watering.

 

Soil Types - Silty Soil is Good for Weeping Willows

Photo: istockphoto.com

SOIL TYPE: SILTY
BEST FOR: Moisture-loving plants

If you live in an area that was once a riverbed, chances are good that you have silty soil. More fertile than sandy soil, silt particles are very fine and soft, making this soil type a top choice for growing lush vines and flowers that thrive in moist soil. Its pH level can vary from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline. The downside to silty soil is its tendency to compact, which reduces drainage and restricts oxygen from reaching plant roots. To reduce compaction problems, add a few inches of compost or composted manure and work it into the top six inches of soil before planting in the spring. Apply additional compost around plants during the growing season, and spread a layer of dried leaves or other mulch over the soil bed in late fall, leaving it to winter over.

The best plants for non-amended silty soil are those that tolerate “wet feet” (i.e., a mostly damp root system), including all types of willow trees, dogwood trees, many iris varieties, peonies, roses, and many types of vines. With just a little amending to improve drainage, silty soil is excellent for vegetable gardening.

 

Soil Types - Loamy Soil is Good for Flowering Perennials

Photo: istockphoto.com

SOIL TYPE: LOAMY
BEST FOR: All plant types

In a gardener’s mind, if there’s any near-perfect soil type, it’s loam. Loamy soil is a balanced blend of clay, sand, and silt. It drains well and it’s high in nutrients. Homeowners with naturally loamy soil can grow virtually any type of plant. Depending on the pH level, which can vary, you may need to add either an acid or alkaline fertilizer if you intend to grow acid-loving plants, such as blueberries, or alkaline-loving ones, such as wisteria. A light application, about one inch thick, of dry leaves or mulch is usually all that’s needed to keep loamy soil healthy. Spread the leaves or mulch on top in the fall and allow it to naturally decompose over the winter. Till it under in spring before planting.

Vegetables, annual and perennial flowers, and most types of shrubs thrive in loamy soil.

 

Soil Types - Chalky Soil is Good for Lilies

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SOIL TYPE: CHALKY
BEST FOR: Alkaline-loving plants

Chalky soils register an average of 7.5 on the pH scale, making them best suited for bulbs, tubers, and flowering shrubs that thrive in alkaline soil. Chalky soil, which is commonly found in areas with heavy limestone formations, dries out rapidly in hot weather, making frequent watering a must. If you want to grow a wider variety of plants, you’ll have to amend the soil by adding organic matter, such as composted manure or peat, and tilling it into the top eight inches of soil. When wet, chalky soil clumps, making it difficult to work with, so wait until it’s dry to work in organic matter.

Alkaline-tolerant plants, such as lilies and lilacs, can thrive chalky soil, but even with amending, it’s difficult to grow acid-loving plants, such as blueberries, azaleas, rhododendrons, or heathers.


Bob Vila Radio: Stop Deer in Their Tracks

These garden grazers can eat over six pounds of food a day. Unfortunately, all that snacking and trampling through the yard can damage fruit trees, vegetables, and flowers. Here's what you need to know to find a deer deterrent that really works!

You might enjoy their pastoral presence, but there’s no doubt that deer wreak havoc on garden vegetables, plants, and trees.  Here are some ways to keep them from snacking on your lawn and garden.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON KEEPING DEER AWAY or read below:

First, deer love fruit trees, ivy, and high-protein crops like peas and beans, so remove those from your garden if you can. Consider planting prickly bushes to create a barrier around the perimeter of your yard. If you’re really determined, you can always install an opaque fence—but remember that most deer can scale a six foot barrier in seconds. To be effective, it should be at least eight feet tall. Another option is to install a lower fence topped with chicken wire and tilted away from your yard at a 45 degree angle.

For a less hands-on solution, try motion-sensor lights or an automated sprinkler system to startle the sneaky intruders. It might sound strange, but chili spray, bits of human hair, or repellents containing wolf or coyote urine can also do the trick.  Most of all, experiment with new methods if the problem persists. Every person, like every deer, is different—so what doesn’t work for one may be the perfect deterrent for another.

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!


DIY Lite: Build a Backyard Hammock Stand from Scratch

Build this outdoor hammock stand in an afternoon—just in time to take a nice long nap in the sun!

DIY Hammock Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Wish that you had a relaxing moment in a camping hammock in your own backyard, but have nowhere to hang it? Rather than wait years for two trees to grow large enough to anchor it, solve this problem before the end of summer by building a DIY hammock stand. Made from a few planks of lumber, this hammock stand is lightweight enough to pull toward any shady corner—even follow the shade throughout the afternoon—yet sturdy enough so that any grown adult can enjoy nap time once again.

 

DIY Hammock Stand - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 2×4 lumber (7 8-foot-long pieces)
- Set square
- Power saw or handsaw
- Sandpaper
- Wood clamps
- Power drill
- 6-inch hex bolts with nuts (12)
- Washers (24)
- Wood glue
- 3-½-inch screws (6)
- 4-inch metal brackets (4)
- 2-inch screws (24)
- Wood stain (preferably for exterior use)
- Varnish (optional)
- Paintbrush
- Hitch rings with plate (2)
- 3/8″ spring link (2)

 

STEP 1

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The first thing to do is cut all the lumber to the dimensions needed for the project. To make what we’ll continue to refer to as the “base” of the DIY hammock stand, you will need two 8-foot-long 2×4s.

Lay them so that the 3-½-inch sides (remember, a 2×4 isn’t exactly 2 inches by 4 inches) rest flat on the floor. Then, use a set square to help you make mirroring 30-degree angle cuts at each end of the boards. You’ll pencil lines from the top left and top right corners of each plank at a 30-degree angle in toward the center, then cut. Sand down your lumber, paying particular attention to the sawn ends.

Note: You’ll make several cuts at 30- and 60-degree angles during this project. If you don’t own a fancy power saw, you can use a set square and a hand saw instead.

 

STEP 2

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Next, cut two 2×4s in half to make four “lateral posts,” each with one flat and one angled end. To make these cuts without any wood scraps, measure and mark the exact center of each length of lumber—at 4 feet in, and then 1-3/4 inches down. Lay your set square over the center dot so that you can draw a line at a 30-degree angle directly through your mark. Draw a line at a 30-degree angle, and cut. Sand down your cut pieces.

 

STEP 3

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now, you’ll create “slant timbers” to connect the base and lateral posts for extra support (see the diagram in Step 4). Take one of the couple remaining 2×4s, measure to find its center (again: at 4 feet in, and then 1-3/4 inches down). Draw a line at a 60-degree angle through the center, and cut following the line. You’ll have two pieces of wood of the same length, each with one end at 60-degree angle.

Cut the straight end of each piece at a 60-degree angle, too, but one that is a mirror image. Sand down all of the pieces.

 

STEP 4

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Cut four 15-inch pieces from another of the remaining 2×4s. Leave two pieces with 90-degree cuts on either end; you’ll use those to join the top part of the lateral posts. The other two should each have one end flat and the other cut at a 30-degree angle (so that the cuts mirror each other); those two will strengthen where the base meets the lateral posts. Sand them completely.

On a flat surface, start laying out the planks according to the diagram above to build the DIY hammock stand:

• Start with the one base lumber (its longer side should face up) and a lateral post on each side, touching but not overlapping.
• Then lay a slant timber diagonally to connect the lateral post and base; where the slant timber’s end overlaps the base should be about 20 inches in from the base’s end.
• Finally, position the four 15-inch cuts: two (without angles) on top of the lateral posts and two (with angles) overlapping where the base and the lateral post meet.

 

STEP 5

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now, start to actually assemble the structure with bolts, beginning at one end. (You’ll see we started on the right side.)

Hold the pieces of the in-progress hammock stand with clamps as you and drill pilot holes through both layers of both wood. You’ll want to drill as straight as possible to easily pass the bolts through afterward. Drill two holes through the top of the stacked 15-inch pieces and lateral posts, one hole through each end of the slant timbers, and two holes through each of the 15-inch cuts joining the base and the lateral post.

Repeat on the other side, so that you end up with 12 holes total.

 

STEP 6

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now, lay out your remaining cuts—the second base wood and the two unused lateral posts—as you did in Step 4, just without any 15-inch pieces.

As the drill bit is not long enough to drill through three layers of 2×4s to join both sides of the DIY hammock stand, you need to precisely mark the holes you’ve just completed onto your remaining materials. Lay the already bored base and slant timbers over top of them, and use your drill to mark the holes’ locations. Remove the wood you’ve already drilled in Step 5, and complete the holes where you’ve marked. Again, remember to drill as straight as possible.

 

STEP 7

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Thread a 6-inch hex bolt with washer through each hole in the first half of the structure that you created in Steps 4 and 5, assembling any overlapping layers as previously explained. Apply a little wood glue between each piece of lumber.

Finish by laying the second base and the two lateral post on top. Cap each bolt with a washer and a nut, in that order, then tighten.

 

STEP 8

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Wait until the glue dries before flipping the structure vertically. Then, add two feet to steady the DIY hammock stand. You’ll cut your last 2×4 in half to make them.

At the center of one of the 4-foot-long pieces, cut a notch into the 3-1⁄2-inch-wide side of the 2×4 that measures 1-inch deep and 4-1⁄2 inches wide (about as wide as your hammock stand measures after assembly) using a wood chisel and hammer.

Repeat to make a second foot for the opposite end of your hammock stand, then sand both pieces.

 

STEP 9

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

On the first foot, line the notch with wood glue, then turn 2×4 so that its 3-1⁄2-inch side remains flat to the ground and slide it up to fit the notch snugly around the bottom of the hammock stand. Drill pilot holes for three 3-1⁄2-inch screws. Then, affix metal brackets (using four 2-inch screws apiece) to connect the foot to the lateral post on each side of the stand.

Repeat with the second foot.

 

STEP 10

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 10

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Almost done! This is what your DIY hammock stand should look like at this point.

 

STEP 11

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 11

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Apply a coat of exterior wood stain in the color of your choice to protect the wood from the moisture it’ll encounter outdoors, working the stain in the direction of the grain with your brush. If you choose an oil-based stain, use a natural-bristle brush; for latex stains, use a synthetic-bristle brush. Then, leave the wood to dry for the amount of time suggested on the stain’s package (likely 24 hours).

If you don’t have a specially formulated exterior wood stain to help weatherproof your backyard project, you can choose any standard wood stain followed by at least two coats of varnish instead.

 

STEP 12

DIY Hammock Stand - Step 12

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Finally, to hang the hammock, fasten a hitch ring with four 2-inch screws into the top of each end (over where the lateral posts sandwich a 15-inch-long plank). Then use a 3/8″ spring link—one that specifies a working load limit of at least a couple hundred pounds—at either end to hook the hammock to the hitch ring. Last, but not least, climb on in and enjoy the view from your new DIY hammock stand.

 

DIY Hammock Stand - Completed Project

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

DIY Hammock Stand - Detail Shot

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

DIY Hammock Stand - Lounging in a New Hammock

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

DIY Hammock Stand - View from the New Hammock

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.

 

 

Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.


Bob Vila Radio: Outdoor Speakers Hit a High Note

Taking your music to go has never been easier—or more affordable. But with so many new models on the market, whittling down the list can feel a little intimidating. For a party-ready backyard, look for a few of these helpful features before you buy.

Audio speakers designed for the outdoors? They’ve been around for years—but recent innovations in weather-resistant components and wireless technology have created a host of new options for taking your music wherever you want.

outdoor-rock-speakers

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Listen to BOB VILA ON OUTDOOR SPEAKERS or read the text below:

If you live near the water, there’s no longer any need to worry about corrosion caused by damp, salty air. Pick up a model with marine-grade hardware and aluminum grills, and your speakers will withstand wet or snowy weather for years.

Some versions double as docking stations for portable music devices. Many connect wirelessly to smartphones, tablets, or laptops, so you won’t have to wrestle with wires and staple guns during installation.

And if you don’t love the look of a regular sound system, you can try “rock speakers” instead. They’re designed and manufactured to look like the real thing, so they won’t look out of place by a tree or in your deck-side garden. Once you’re done, you’ll have the Beatles to go along with your begonias!

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!