The Fall Checklist for your Lawn

September is when the autumn equinox happens; when the days and nights are of equal length and the heat of summer is left in the past. As the cooler temperatures approach, it’s time to prepare your lawn for winter and the upcoming spring.

Lawn garden and tree care for the fall
The following fall checklist for will be your guide for preparing your lawn for autumn. Understand that your garden, lawn, trees, and shrubs will be making their own preparations for winter by absorbing plenty of moisture and nutrients for energy.

Preparing Your Lawn for Colder Months

Your lawn will naturally grow at a reduced pace as the cold temperatures set in. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay as much attention to it though. Here’s more on how to prepare your lawn for the winter and bring it back to life in the spring.

Mow and Water Schedule – Make sure you mow your lawn on a regular basis. Lower the blade on the lawn mower gradually through the season. The blade should be set as low as possible for the final cut of fall.

Note: keeping the grass low like this means that more sunlight will reach the crown of the grass to minimize browning during the seasonal change.

Fall lawn maintenance and watering
As temperatures cool, your lawn will require less water. Gradually reduce how much water you give your lawn before stopping entirely as the freezing temperatures kick in.

Treat Burn and Bald Spots – The start of fall is the best time to address the bald and “burned” spots of your lawn. Many garden centers offer seed mixtures that contain seeds, fertilizers, and mulch. This is the best way to fill the lawn in.

Bald spot in lawn needs grass seed
Simply remove the dead and dying grass from the burned spot and loosen the topsoil of the spot by raking about an inch into the ground. Fill this area with half an inch of the seed mixture and compact it. Water the area thoroughly and then water it every other day until the grass fills the spot. This can take between two and three weeks in all.

Aerate the Soil – As the fall starts, aerating the soil allows or oxygen, water, and fertilizer to better reach the root system of your lawn. Aerating reverses natural compacting of soil, allowing the roots to grow and spread evenly.

Read this article for more tips on why, how, and the tools needed to aerate your yard.

Planting and Fertilizing – Have you ever wondered how some people keep their grass green all year through? It’s not some magical fertilizer; but rather two grass breeds. The Bermuda grass species works well during summer while Fescue grass is strong in winter.

As the fall starts, it’s time to plant more fescue than Bermuda. As the fescue starts to grow, the Bermuda grass enters its winter dormant state. Make sure you use a light mulch when seeding to prevent birds from eating your lawn before it sprouts.

The best time to fertilize fescue is the middle of September. Use 2.5 – 3 pounds of nitrogen per thousand square feet per year.

Grass lawn fertilizing for the fall
Bermuda fertilization should be done after over seeding. Fertilize Bermuda by using one half-pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet around six months before first frost.

Note that using a walk behind drop spreader offers a more even distribution of your fertilizer.

Leaf Raking – Any leaves that fall from deciduous trees should be raked – as these leaves contain a chemical that causes decomposition. Rain soaks through leaves as they pile up, compacting them and creating an impregnable sheet. If left alone, it allows for the growth of fungi and bacteria, which represent even greater risks for your lawn.

Fall lawn maintenance leaf raking from trees
Rake leaves as they fall and add them to a compost pile. If you have a lot of trees that are shedding leaves, then using a vacuum system or a lawn mower with a collection bag is a good choice.

Fall Weed Control – The middle of September is the best time to apply pre-emergent formulas to your lawn with Bermuda grass. It’s also the ideal time for herbicides. Remember that your plants and weeds alike are fighting to gather all the moisture, nutrients, and energy that they can before winter sets in. Weeds will soak up the herbicide, killing them and preventing them from returning in spring.

The Importance of Fall Lawn Care

Taking proper care of your lawn in the fall almost guarantees that it will be beautiful and resilient for the upcoming spring and summer. Fall is also the ideal time to arrange for an arborist to inspect the health of trees and shrubs on your landscape. Another way to keep your lawn healthy is by identifying and removing diseased and troubled trees.

Keeping a lawn healthy lays the foundation for a nourishing ecosystem that keeps plants, shrubs, and trees healthy.

Go to www.todayshomeowner.com/september-lawn-garden-to-do-list/ for additional September to-do’s.

Visit www.homeandgardeningguide.com/gardening-landscaping/lawn-care/ for more lawn care articles, resources and how-to tips.

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7 Summer Maintenance Tips for Every Homeowner

Keeping your home functioning optimally year-round requires a bit of planning and effort. For the summer months, those preparations begin in the spring. The following seven summer preparation tips will help you get the most out of your home, while conserving energy and even saving money.

Clean Your Air Conditioner Condenser

The life expectancy of your air conditioning system greatly depends on the routine maintenance that it is given. Through this maintenance, energy consumption is reduced and the unit is more capable to efficiently cool your home.

Removing and inspecting air conditioning condenser fan assembly
The condenser unit is fairly simple to clean. In the beginning and end of the cooling season, the unit should be vacuumed, cleared from debris and have any damaged or bent fins straightened. Read How to Clean Your Air Conditioning Condenser Unit for complete instructions and cool pictures.

For the rest of the air conditioning system, including the ducts, annual professional maintenance and cleaning should be scheduled. This will keep the entire system running flawlessly when needed most.

Examine the Roof and Exterior Walls for Leaks and Damage

Inspecting the Roof: There are two great ways to examine your roof for leaks and damage. The first and most obvious is to get up on the roof or get to a good vantage point to see and inspect it. If you notice damaged tiles, repair or replace them.

Roof shingle and exterior wall inspection for damages
The second way is to go to the attic on a sunny day. With the lights off, inspect the roof’s internal paneling for points or rays of light. If light is getting through, water will too. While in the attic, with the lights on, inspect the floor for stains or water marks.

If you determine that your roof is leaking, take action immediately. Damages from this type of leak can cause major structural damage and can become very expensive to fix.

Inspecting the Exterior Walls: Take a slow walk around the outside of your home. Whether you have siding, stucco, etc., look for cracks, chips, flaking paint, or anything out of the ordinary. Make appropriate repairs for anything you may find.

Clean Out the Gutters and Downspouts

Over the months, debris builds up in your gutters. Make sure they are secured firmly to the roof’s framing and cleaned out. Double check the filters on the downspouts to ensure they are clean and able to function properly when needed.

Roof gutters and downspouts being cleaned and maintained
Take the time to pressure-wash, repair and/or repaint any damaged areas of the gutter and downspouts.

Inspecting Appliance Water Supply

Principally, the refrigerator (if it dispenses water), dishwasher, and washing machine will possess water supply and drain hoses. These hoses should be checked to make certain that they are:

  • connected properly and leak free
  • free of fissures, wearing and cracks
  • free from pinch points and kinks

Appliance water supply line inspection for refrigerator
If the hoses are showing signs of wear or have started leaking, take immediate action and get them replaced. The failure of any of these hoses may result in the flooding of your home.

Search for Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew require a dark damp and still area in order to thrive. This search will take you to the darkest corners of your home (literally). Starting in the attic, work your way down to the crawlspace or basement.

Mold hidden in corner of home
Using a flashlight, check behind and under the fridge, the washer, cabinets, under the sink, behind the toilet tank, etc.

If you find mold or mildew, keep in mind that household cleaners will only fix the problem superficially. Even bleach does not completely kill the fungi. Calling in a professional is a great step to permanently fixing this issue.

Until then, remember that mold and mildew need darkness, dampness and still air to thrive. Removing any of these three factors will dramatically slow its growth until the issue can be solved.

Mold issues require immediate action, learn more about mold remediation here: http://www.iicrc.org/standards/iicrc-s520/

Squeaky Doors Need Your Attention

Squeaky door hinge needs grease
Your door knobs, hinges and latches throughout the house should be tightened and lubricated. Use this activity to inspect the door frame and its surroundings. Look for warping and for cracks in the wall around the door frame.

Clean Faucets Improve Water Pressure

The faucets in your home will most likely have an aerator. This is a screen-like attachment which literally aerates the water as it exits the faucet. Beware, it is also a sediment trap! Most aerators can be removed by simply unscrewing them from the faucet. Clean it, replace it (if damaged) and screw it back into place.

Sink faucet aerator being cleaned
Remove the shower head and inspect the arm and threads for corrosion. Clean the filter on the shower head (if needed) and refasten the shower head to the arm. Consider replacing your shower head for one that is water efficient.

Routine Maintenance Pays High Dividends

Considering the cost of repairs after structural damage, flooding or severe mold cases, it is much more cost effective to set a maintenance routine and schedule professional maintenance and inspections on an annual basis.

The value, beauty and health of your home and its occupants depend on the proper functioning of the home’s structure, fixtures, and appliances. Take action before you are forced to take action.

Visit www.homeandgardeningguide.com/repairs/scheduled-maintenance/ for more scheduled maintenance articles, resources and how-to tips.

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How to Clean Your Air Conditioning Condenser Unit

Extending the life of your air conditioner and avoiding costly maintenance is as easy as routinely cleaning it. By doing so, you will also reduce energy consumption and boost the efficiency of the unit’s capability to cool the air in your home.

As outdoor condenser units are installed in easy access locations, homeowners are able to perform simple maintenance without the necessity of calling a professional. To maximize efficiency and prolong the life of your unit, air conditioner and condenser unit maintenance should be performed once in the beginning of the cooling season (mid to late spring), and again at the end (early to mid autumn).

The following how-to guide will walk you through the proper cleaning of your air conditioner’s condenser unit.

Cleaning the Outdoor Condenser Unit

Your objective here is to clean the condenser coil and its fins. The unit’s efficiency can be dramatically reduced as the fan inside the unit sucks air through the fins, bringing dead leaves, grass, bugs, and anything else floating nearby. This adds up over time and obstructs the airflow needed for the unit to properly function. Take the following steps to clean your unit:

Step 1. Turn Off the Power – Step one is to shut off the source of electricity! First, make sure that the unit’s thermostat is in the off position. Then, near the condenser unit, locate the breaker or switch box. It may be a switch or lever (turn to the off position), or it may be a fuse block which you simply pull out.

Turning off power before cleaning the air conditioning condenser unit
Disconnecting air conditioning condenser unit fuse from fuse box
Do not begin maintenance until you are absolutely certain that power to the unit has been shut off.

air conditioning fuse removed from fuse box for safety
Step 2. Remove Debris from the Coil and Fins – Be very careful when cleaning the fins, they are easily bent. Using a soft brush or a vacuum with a soft brush attachment, clean the fins by gently brushing between them, following the line of the fins (usually up and down). Never brush against the direction of the fins, this will do more harm than good.

Vacuuming air conditioning condenser coil fins from outside
Step 3. Straightening Bent Fins – Bent fins may be straightened with a butter knife (avoid sharp knives and tools when cleaning the fins). For straightening multiple fins, there are special combs made for straightening which may be purchased at your local hardware store. Finally, if large areas have been crushed, have a professional straighten them on the next routine visit.

Step 4. Remove the Fan for Internal Access – Unscrew the screws that secure the fan to the unit. Use caution when pulling the fan up or to the side, the wiring is attached to the body of the unit.

Removing screws from air conditioning condenser unit fan assembly housing
Removing and inspecting air conditioning condenser fan assembly
Make sure the fan and its housing are clean. Newer models have an encased fan unit and do not require maintenance. Older models will have oil (lubrication) ports. If this is the case, refer to the owner’s manual for the proper oil and amount to be applied.

Tip – Never use cooking oils or displacement oils, they are not intended for long term lubrication and will cause more harm than good.

Some models will have a belt driven system. In this case, look for oil ports on the motor, and apply the proper amount of oil as recommended by the owner’s manual or model specifications.

Step 5. Cleaning the Inside of the Condenser Unit – With the fan housing detached, vacuum the inside of the unit. Again, make sure to use a soft brush or vacuum attachment when cleaning the fins.

Vacuuming air conditioning condenser coil fins from inside
For situations with a lot of build up from dust and debris, remove as much as possible with a brush or vacuum, or both. Follow up by using a hose to spray the coil and fins from the inside out. Do not use high pressure or a pressure washer! The fins are easily bent and crushed when hit with anything under pressure.

Step 6. Reassembling and Preparing for Use – Once the coil and fins are cleaned and straightened, replace the fan assembly and secure it to the unit.

Replacing air conditioning condenser fan assembly and fastening screws
Before moving on, allow time for the condenser unit to dry (if water was used to clean the fins).

Return the power switch or lever to the “ON” position or replace the fuse block. Turn the thermostat on to the cooling mode and enjoy the fresh cool air.

Replacing the fuse for the cleaned air conditioning condenser
Restoring power after cleaning the air conditioning condenser unit
Watch this video for a visual explanation of cleaning your air conditioning condenser unit:

After cleaning your condenser unit, consider cleaning or scheduling your air ducts and vents. Visit https://nadca.com/homeowners/proper-cleaning-methods for benefits and related info.

Proper and Regular Maintenance

Ensuring the most efficient operation and extending the life of your air conditioning system are as simple as following a maintenance schedule. By doing this, you are able to detect issues early on and take preventative measures to ensure the longevity of your equipment. When larger issues arise or you’ve detected irregularities, call on a professional to help you “keep your cool”.

Visit  www.homeandgardeningguide.com/repairs/heating-cooling/ for more AC articles, resources and how-to tips.

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How to Unclog and Plunge a Clogged Toilet

Of all the rooms in a home or business, the last one you want to have drainage issues with is the bathroom. By virtue of the business we perform there, backups can be a serious mess full of bacteria and fecal matter, not to mention expensive to have cleaned up.

If you experience a clogged or overflowing toilet, follow these steps to clear the line and restore your toilet to working function.

Using a Plunger to Clear the Clog

In the majority of cases, clogged toilets can be remedied with a plunger. If the toilet is clogged, do not flush it. This can cause an overflow taking bacteria and fecal matter to the floor of the bathroom.

1. Make sure there is enough water in the bowl to completely cover the bell of the plunger.

plunger in a clogged toilet that was overflowing
2. If necessary, use a bucket of water to fill the bowl – again, don’t flush.

pouring water to cover a plunger inside a clogged toilet bowl
3. Submerse the plunger and depress slowly to expel the air in the plunger’s bell

depressed plunger in a clogged toilet bowl
4. Then using strong and fast strokes, plunge until the water level in the bowl drops to the middle of the bell (refill and repeat this process if necessary).

fully depressed plunger in a clogged toilet bowl
plunging a clogged toilet drain that was overflowing
5. When using the plunger correctly, the suction pressure that is created clears the obstruction. You may hear bubbling as the drain is cleared, and the water will flow freely down the toilet bowl.

cleared toilet drain after using a plunger

Best Plunger & Another Tool to Clear Your Drain

The best use of a plunger is when a drain has been stopped with toilet tissue and soft matter. The force created can clear other materials.

Watch this video for an explanation of plungers and the best technique depending on what is clogging your drain:


However, for hard materials like a toothbrush or a comb that are in your toilet bowl drain, you may need a snake or drain auger.

This device is made of metal and has a claw like attachment to pierce and force anything through the drain. If unsuccessful with a plunger, snakes can be purchased at your store, or professional versions can also be rented.

When to Call a Professional Plumber

If the clog persists after plunging or using an auger, it is time to consult a plumbing professional. Some clogs build up over time and can be located much further into the waste pipe which a typical auger may not be equipped to handle.

Call in a professional to assure the drain will be properly unclogged without creating an overflowing “biohazard” mess on your floors.

Visit www.homeandgardeningguide.com/repairs/plumbing/ for more plumbing articles, resources and how-to tips.

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10 tips for creating a beautiful balcony garden

You don’t need a yard to create a luscious garden. Follow these expert tricks and make your own flora-filled sanctuary.

balcony-garden

1. Get your light right. Before you buy anything, take the time to learn how many hours of sun per day your balcony receives. Pay attention to indirect light as well — that is, no trees or walls blocking large portions of the sky. Even a north-facing balcony can be a happy home for many plants if there is enough indirect light. For full sun, plant: Grasses, succulents (like echeveria), morning glory vines, strawberries, lettuce, lavender, oregano, sage, mint and basil. For lots of shade, plant: Coleus, English ivy, most types of ferns, fuschia, peace lilies and begonias.

2. Be an organized shopper. When buying plants, group them together by their light and moisture requirements.

3. Take a whiff. Don’t forget about scent when you are choosing your plants. It’s the final ingredient that makes your balcony garden an oasis!

4. Check your planters. Make sure the containers you plan to use are compatible with the growth habits of your plants. Make sure they have adequate drainage as well.

pastel-flowerpots-photo-farrow-ball

5. Don’t use just any dirt. Use a potting soil that is designed for containers — these soils are very light.

6. Cover soil with mulch. Avoid dry soil with moss, pea gravel or shredded cedar.

7. Use a top dressing of compost.Compost tea is great for apartment dwellers or anyone who can’t make compost, meaning its good for indoors and containers. Use it instead of water for your plants. Try: Urban Harvest Worm Castings Plant Tea, $14 (for 10 large bags), Urban Harvest.

8. Give the plants a good drink. If you are in a windy area your plants will need more watering, most likely once per day in the summer. Terra cotta pots also require more frequent watering than plastic or fibreglass.

9. But make sure you don’t rush watering. Water slowly and thoroughly until excess water drains out the bottom of the container.

Read the full article here: http://www.chatelaine.com/home-decor/top-10-balcony-gardening-tips/