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Alan Bernau Jr

Recent Posts

The Summer Sun Safety Guide

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Fri, Jun 22, 2018

carport-to-block-sun-from-rv-or-golfcart

A carport is a great way to block the sun from your rv or golf cart.

Swimming, canoeing, hiking, and barbecuing are just a few of the fun things we all like to do in the summertime. But as you go out and enjoy the summer days to come, keep some rules in mind for staying safe in the sun.

Facts About Sunscreen

Getting the right sunscreen can help protect your skin out in the sunshine. It's best to choose sunscreen with a sun protection factor, or SPF, of 30 or higher. Sunscreen with an SPF of 30 does an excellent job of protecting your skin from UVB rays. In addition, use sunscreen that is water-resistant, so you don't have to reapply it every time you get out of the swimming pool. Apply sunscreen approximately 15 minutes before going outside so it has a chance to soak into your skin and provide protection. You already know to put sunscreen on your face, shoulders, neck, back, arms, and legs. And to protect your lips, apply lip balm with an SPF of 15.

When Should I Avoid Going Out in the Sun?

The sun's rays are the strongest from 10 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. Of course, most people like to spend time outside during this period, but the best advice is to limit your time outdoors during these hours. If you do spend the day canoeing or swimming, be sure to apply a liberal amount of sunscreen to protect your skin. Wearing a hat with a brim, a cover-up over your bathing suit, and sneakers can also help protect your skin.

Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke

On a beautiful summer day, it's easy to get overheated without realizing it. You may feel like going for a long hike, cutting the lawn, or weeding the garden and fail to consider the extreme temperatures of the day. I suggest carrying a full bottle of water with you at all times, so you're constantly taking in fluids. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two serious heat-related illnesses. Someone with heat exhaustion may feel nauseous, fatigued, confused, and excessively thirsty. If a person is experiencing these symptoms, get them to lie down in the shade. If they have any tight or heavy clothing on, remove it, and give them some cool water. Someone with heat stroke can experience those same symptoms as well as a rapid heartbeat, dry skin, shortness of breath, and convulsions. Call an ambulance if you think someone is suffering from heat stroke. In the meantime, put the person in the shade, sponge their skin with cool water, and put a fan on them.

Treating a Sunburn

If you do get a sunburn, one way to lessen the pain is to take frequent cool showers. Also, apply moisturizing lotion with aloe to your skin. Drink lots of cool water, and if blisters form on your skin, let them heal naturally. Wear light clothing over sunburned areas when you go outside so your skin doesn't suffer more damage.

How Do I Help a Pet That's Overheated?

Like their owners, pets can also become overheated. Excessive panting, dry gums, and vomiting are all signs that your dog or cat is overheated. If you see these symptoms, take your pet inside and give it some cool water to drink. Also, place cool, wet towels on its neck, under its legs, and on its ears and paws. If you don't see any improvement, take your dog or cat to the vet for treatment right away.

Be aware of how you, your kids, and your pets are feeling to make sure that you have a safe summer while you make some fun memories with your family! Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: carport to block sun

How To Turn Your Unused Shed Into A Pool House

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Sat, Jun 9, 2018

turn-shed-into-pool-house

How are you and your family going to keep cool this summer? Maybe you're lucky enough to have a swimming pool in your backyard. If so, you need a pool house for all of your pool-related items. If you have an unused shed, then you have the perfect solution! This week, I have a few ideas for how you can turn your shed into a pool house that will be the envy of the neighborhood.

Hang Some Large, Multi-Purpose Hooks on One Wall

Consider attaching several large hooks to a wall of your shed. Use them for storing your pool vacuum hoses, beach towels, floating inner tubes, and more. I suggest you look for hooks with a rubber coating, so they won't scratch any equipment you hang on them.

Keep an Ice-Filled Cooler on a Small Table in Your Pool House

No pool house is complete without a cooler of refreshments for swimmers. Set aside a low table in your shed for a cooler filled with ice and bottles of water, soda, and juice. If I were stocking the cooler, there would definitely be some chocolate bars thrown in with the drinks, making it a little more like the concession stand at the local swimming pool!

Put Some Folding Chairs Out on the Porch

If you own a shed with a porch, put a couple of folding chairs out for swimmers to rest in while they dry off. Also, this would be a cool place for grandparents to sit, sip an iced tea, and watch the kids have some fun splashing the afternoon away in the pool.

Get Clear Plastic Bins to Stack in a Corner

Keep a few clear plastic bins in your pool house for pool-related items. Label one bin for swimming goggles and snorkel masks. Use a larger bin for foam noodles, scuba fins, and medium-sized pool toys. You may want to keep a bin for extra swimsuits, sandals, and beach towels.

Hang Some Curtains Over the Windows

If you have a pool party, some of your guests or relatives may want to change into their swimsuits in the pool house. Put up some colorful curtains on your pool house windows for privacy. Also, close the curtains during the afternoon hours to keep your pool house a bit cooler, making it a nice spot to cool off in the shade for a bit before diving back into the pool.

Place a Shoe Rack Near the Door

A simple shoe rack near the door of your shed/pool house allows your friends and relatives to change from tennis shoes into sandals in a jiffy. They can walk out to the pool area in sandals, leaving their street shoes and socks in the pool house to stay dry. When the swimming day is done, they can slip back into their socks and tennis shoes and leave their sandals behind for next time.

And don't forget to personalize your shed/pool house by hanging a sign on the door. You could have a wooden sign made displaying your family's name or make a homemade painted sign. Either way, have some fun creating a pool house you'll enjoy. Thanks for reading. - Alan

Getting A Late Start In The Garden

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Sat, Jun 9, 2018

container-garden-late-start

Have you been really busy this spring? Perhaps you've been studying for final exams at school, packing up to move to a new home, or you've been occupied with spring cleaning tasks. Maybe you're thinking that it's too late to start a garden. Well, I'm here to tell you that it's not too late! Today, I have some ideas for how you can enjoy a flourishing garden even if you're a little late off the starting blocks.

Think About Getting Some Young Plants

If you're creating a garden in late spring, young plants are a better option than seeds. Of course, young plants and flowers that are already a few inches tall are usually more expensive than seeds. But going with young plants means you have more time to enjoy the appearance of your garden. Take a stroll through your local farmers' market to choose a selection of young flowers or plants that can add instant beauty to your garden.

Create a Container Garden

Consider using young plants in a container garden. A container garden is a great idea if you live in an apartment or a home with very little space for a traditional garden. A wooden crate brimming with colorful viola plants is one idea. A collection of marigold plants in a window box or hanging pot would add brilliant color to the area around your home or apartment. A barrel planter full of pink and purple petunias is another simple way to dress up a patio or balcony.

For even more fun, add some herbs, fruits, and veggies to your container garden. Thyme, mint, rosemary, oregano, and sage are popular occupants of many container gardens because they are so easy to grow. Some excellent fruits for your container garden include strawberries, tomatoes, figs, and blueberries. Spinach, chard, onions, and beans are a few vegetables that are easy to grow in containers. Some vegetables grow better when they are paired together. Looking at a companion planting chart is a good idea before choosing veggies for your container or traditional garden. Just think of all the delicious salads you could make!

Plant Seeds You Can Enjoy in the Fall

Think about planting some vegetables now that you can enjoy in late summer and fall. Carrots and radishes are two veggies to plant in your late-spring garden. Other vegetables ideal for a late-spring garden include sugar snap peas, zucchini, Swiss chard, kale, cucumbers, squash, and broccoli.

Plant Summer Flowering Bulbs

Begonias, bearded iris, and allium bulbs can all be planted in the spring so they can flower in late summer. Gladiola corms are another option for your late spring garden. I suggest you set aside a portion of your garden for these bulbs. Just imagine what a pleasant surprise it will be to see all of the blooming colors appear in late summer!

Remember, you still have time to create an imaginative, attractive garden you can enjoy. Try planting some flowers, vegetables, or herbs you aren't familiar with to challenge your growing skills! Who knows? They may make their way onto the list of plants you grow every year. Thanks for reading. - Alan

The Best And Worst Bugs To Have In The Garden

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, May 24, 2018

ladybug-best-worst-bugs-in-garden

Did you know there are many insects that can help your garden to flourish? For instance, ladybugs eat many of the insects that can harm your plants and flowers. So before you banish an insect from your garden, make sure it's not one of the good guys! Today, I'll help you out by telling you about some of the best and worst bugs for a garden.

The Best Bugs for Your Garden

  • Ladybugs: Aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, leaf-hoppers, and thrips love to chew on the leaves of the plants in your garden. Ladybugs are beneficial to have in your garden because they eat these along with other plant-eating insects. In its lifetime, a ladybug can eat around 5,000 aphids. You can attract ladybugs by planting some of their favorite plants, including scented geraniums, yarrow. or tansy.
  • Praying Mantis: A praying mantis eats all types of insects, including grasshoppers, flies, crickets, and moths. If you have an abundance of bad insects like aphids or whiteflies, having a praying mantis or two in your garden means many will be eaten. Praying mantises like to dwell in gardens with yarrow, marigolds, angelica, and cosmos. They look for plants with long petals or leaves so they have shelter from the sunlight and rain. I like the idea of planting a group of cheerful perennials like black-eyed Susans so praying mantises have a place to return to each year to eat destructive bugs.
  • Hoverflies: Wherever you see aphids, there is likely a hoverfly nearby. These bugs, also known as syrphid flies, lay their eggs near aphid colonies. The hatching larvae consume the aphids. In addition to eating aphids, hoverflies eat thrips, caterpillars, and scale insects. Plant some fragrant items such as sweet alyssum, oregano, garlic, chives, and bachelor buttons to entice hoverflies to leave their larvae in your garden.
  • Ground Beetles: A ground beetle is a friend to have in your garden. They start eating pests as larvae and continue to eat them as they grow into adults. Some examples of the pests they eat include gypsy moth larvae, slugs, tent caterpillars, ants, cabbage worms, and cutworms. Bushy amaranth plants are enticing to these beetles, so make room for them in your garden. Also, put some flat stones in and around your garden so these beetles have a place to hide.

The Worst Bugs for Your Garden

  • Aphids: This should come as no surprise, seeing as aphids are on the menu of many beneficial insects. Aphids are especially efficient in their destruction of a garden by sucking the sap out of plants, causing their leaves to drop off. Plant some chives, dill, basil, or sage to keep aphids away.
  • Cutworms: These thick worms spend their nights chewing on the bottoms of stems belonging to various types of vegetables and other plants in a garden. These pests injure and consume young plants that are just starting to grow. Birds love to eat cutworms, so make the area inviting to sparrows and other birds by putting a birdbath near your garden. While birds are taking a drink, they are likely to spot a cutworm or two.
  • Mexican Bean Beetles: Adult Mexican bean beetles as well as their larvae chew on the leaves of many sorts of plants. Not surprisingly, they especially like to consume soybeans, snap beans, and lima beans, among others. Putting netting over your beans is one way to keep these pests from getting to your garden, or you can plant some rosemary or marigolds to repel these pests.
  • Japanese Beetles: These beetles with a metallic sheen feed on vegetables, shrubs, trees, and flowers. Watch out for them if you have any roses in your garden. They even feed on grass roots. Catnip, garlic, tansy, or white chrysanthemums repel Japanese beetles, so try including a few of these in your garden.

I hope you add some beneficial insects to your garden this spring and summer to keep those pests at bay. Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: best and worst bugs in garden

Why You Should Make The Switch To Energy-Efficient Appliances

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, May 24, 2018

dishwasher-appliance

Are you thinking about replacing your refrigerator, dishwasher, clothes dryer, or another appliance in your home? You already know that owning energy-efficient appliances benefits the environment; they reduce the amount of pollution released by power plants. In addition to helping the environment, owning energy-efficient appliances can benefit your family. Today, I'm sharing just a few of the many reasons why you should make the switch to energy-efficient appliances and some ideas for how you can save energy with the ones you already have.

Rebates Available for Energy-Efficient Appliances

Did you know that it's possible to get a rebate after purchasing an energy-efficient appliance? Energy Star makes it easy to locate rebate deals. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code in the rebate finder and peruse the appliances available with rebates in your area. I like the idea of doing the right thing for the environment and getting a financial return; don't you?

Enjoy Lower Energy Bills

By design, energy-efficient appliances don't use more energy than necessary to serve their purpose. They have energy settings you can adjust to make them even more energy-efficient. For example, if you have a load of semi-dirty dishes, you can adjust the energy setting to give them a light wash. The light wash setting uses less water and power compared to the heavy wash setting you'd use for plates with dried spaghetti sauce or syrup on them.

Increase the Resale Value of Your Home

You may not envision selling your home. But if you ever decided to sell, your energy-efficient appliances would contribute to the value of your home. Owning a home with modern appliances and saving money on the monthly utility bill would definitely be appealing to buyers.

Tips for Operating Your Appliances in the Most Efficient Way

Load Your Dishwasher to Capacity

Though you can adjust energy settings on your appliances, you still want to make the most of every use. For instance, be sure to fully load your dishwasher before pushing the start button. If you only have a few items of clothing to wash, put them aside until you have a full load. Put off doing the laundry for a while? Sounds great to me!

Occasionally Test the Seal of Your Refrigerator

The seal on any refrigerator door can become worn over time. A worn seal allows cold air to escape, prompting the refrigerator to work harder to do its job. Run a quick test on your refrigerator door seal by putting a dollar bill against the seal and closing the door with the bill halfway in and halfway out. If you can pull the dollar bill out while the refrigerator door is closed, then your seal is worn out. Replacing the seal is fairly simple and can get your energy-efficient refrigerator working at its best again.

Select an Appliance in a Suitable Size

When choosing an energy-efficient appliance, think about how it will be used by your family. For instance, if you are purchasing a clothes dryer, think about how much laundry you do in a week. If you only dry a load or two, then a smaller clothes dryer would suffice.

You don't need to swap out all of your appliances at once. But next time you need one, consider the value of getting one that's designed to be energy-efficient.

Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: Energy-Efficient Appliances

12 Of The Easiest Houseplants For A Beginner To Grow

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Fri, May 18, 2018

easiest-houseplants-for-a-beginner

It's fun to watch a houseplant grow and change over time. Plus, we love them because they release oxygen into a room. But did you know that many of them absorb toxins floating around indoors? Getting a new houseplant or two for your home this spring is a win-win! This week, I have a few ideas to get you started on your way to owning a wonderful collection of houseplants.

12 Easy Houseplants for a Beginner to Grow

  1. Spider Plant. Place your spider plant in an area of your home where it will receive indirect sunlight. Give your plant a moderate amount of water each week, but don't make the soil soggy. These plants are great for sitting near a window in a living room, kitchen, or hallway. Spider plants grow quickly but can stay in a medium-size pot. They are known to absorb formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from the air.
  2. English Ivy. This houseplant needs a medium to low amount of sunlight as well as about one inch of water per week. A hanging pot of English ivy will be happy near a window in a room of moderate temperature. This plant grows quickly, so be sure to make room for its many vines. They absorb indoor air pollutants such as styrene, mold, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and benzene. They can clean the air in a room measuring 200 square feet!
  3. Pothos. A pothos plant does well in partial sunlight with a moderate amount of water each week. Push your finger about a half-inch into the soil to see if it's dry. If so, your pothos needs water. These are fast-growing plants, so don't be surprised as you watch your pothos vines grow longer with each passing month. Pothos absorbs formaldehyde and benzene particles from the air.
  4. Snake Plant. Give this hardy plant a low level of sunlight and a small amount of water and watch it flourish! A snake plant is a slow grower and releases oxygen when it gets dark. So why not put one in your bedroom and reap its benefits as you sleep? It absorbs airborne toxins such as formaldehyde, toluene, xylene, and benzene, too.
  5. Peace Lily. Give this plant a moderate amount of water and put it in a place where it can receive partial sunlight. Acetone, benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene are just a few of the airborne toxins this plant absorbs. The relaxed lighting requirements for this plant means it can flourish in practically any room. It can grow to be three feet high!
  6. Heartleaf Philodendron. Let this plant dry out between waterings, and put it in a place with moderate sunlight. This plant with attractive leaves absorbs benzene and formaldehyde from the air. Leave plenty of space around it for its quick-growing vines.
  7. Aloe. Aloe releases a lot of oxygen and absorbs formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. Every few days, stick your fingers two inches into the soil to see if it's dry. If it is, water your aloe plant. I like the idea of keeping this plant in the kitchen. The juice from its leaves can soothe burns or rough skin, so if you burn yourself on a hot plate, you'll have your aloe plant close at hand!
  8. Boston Fern. Keep your Boston fern in the bathroom so it can enjoy the humidity from the shower. It needs a moderate amount of water and partial sunlight, so it's best if you have a window in your powder room. This traditional houseplant is rated number one at removing formaldehyde from the air. It grows quickly but slows down in the wintertime.
  9. Rubber Plant. Give your rubber plant a space that receives partial sunlight. Some rubber plants can grow to be eight feet tall, so make sure you have a large area for it in your home. Water this plant only when the soil is dry. It's excellent at removing formaldehyde from the air.
  10. Bromeliad. These plants need partial, bright sunlight to flourish. After a thorough watering once a month, watch to make sure the water drains out of the bottom of the pot. Spray a mist on this tropical plant two times a week, or put it in the bathroom after someone has taken a hot shower. This plant can grow to be several feet tall, so it will likely need to be repotted as it grows. Formaldehyde and benzene are two of the many toxins this plant removes from the air.
  11. Jade Plant. This simple yet attractive houseplant absorbs acetone from the air. Keep its soil moist, and put your jade in partial sunlight. Make sure the pot is sturdy to support its heavy stems. This small, compact plant would be an excellent addition to a home office on a desk near a window.
  12. Dracaena. Some types of dracaena grow to be three feet tall, while others sprout up to six! Water your dracaena once a week, and make sure the water drains out the bottom of the pot so it doesn't sit in soggy soil. An area with partial sunlight is perfect for this houseplant. Dracaena is effective at absorbing acetone from the air.

Good luck with your new additions, and thanks for reading! - Alan

Topics: easiest houseplants

The Dangers of a Dead Tree On Your Property

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Fri, May 11, 2018

fox-on-tree-stump

Do you have a tree in your yard that's not looking so good? Maybe you suspect that it may be dying, but you're not sure. A dying or dead tree can be a hazard in a yard or on another piece of property. This week, I'm thinking about how to determine if a tree is dying or dead and what to do about it.

How Do I Know if a Tree Is Dying or Dead?

Fortunately, there are many ways to spot a dying tree. One way to make a judgment is to take a pocket knife and scrape a thin layer off of a small twig. If the tree is living, the interior of the twig will be green and moist. Alternatively, if its interior is brown and dry, you may have a dying tree in your yard. Try the same test on a couple other twigs to see if you get the same results. Another sign of a dying tree is cracks or splits in your tree's bark. Do you have lots of missing or malformed leaves up in the canopy of your tree? If so, that's a sign that your tree may be dying, too. If you're still not sure about the condition of your tree, contact an arborist who can tell you for sure. I suggest taking some pictures of your tree with closeups of its trunk. Email them to the arborist so they can make an initial evaluation of its condition.

When Is the Best Time to Cut Down a Tree?

In the spring is the best time to cut down a dying or dead tree. If a tree is going to bloom, it will happen in the spring. If you see no sign of blooms on your tree, then that's another sign that it is dying or dead.

Methods for Cutting Down a Tree

Often, cutting down a tree is best left to the professionals: They have the right tools and have experience with the process. But if you are going to cut down a tree yourself, you must have the right safety gear, including goggles, heavy-duty gloves, earplugs, and leg protection. You have to own or rent a chainsaw designed to handle the type of tree you plan to cut down. Is it a small tree, or has it been standing there for 30 years? It's also necessary to evaluate which way you want your tree to fall and give it adequate space, so it won't cause damage as it comes down. Also, you must cut the tree in a certain way to ensure that it falls how you want it to. And after the tree is down, it must be cut into sections and hauled away.

Why Is it Dangerous to Have a Dead Tree on Your Property?

A dying or dead tree can fall on a house or car, causing costly damage. Also, large branches can fall without warning, putting family members, visitors, and pets at risk. Termites are big fans of dying and dead trees, too, so your tree could be overrun by pests that occupy your yard. And dying or dead tree starts to decay and stands there with bare branches throughout the year, so it can be an unattractive element in your otherwise appealing yard.

If you're wondering about the condition of a tree in your yard, take a closer look at it and try the twig test. If you do find that you have a dead tree, give some thought to planting a new one so you and your family can watch it grow taller each year. Take care, and thanks for reading. - Alan at Alan's Factory Outlet

Topics: dead tree on property

Guide To Growing A Cocktail Garden

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, May 3, 2018

grow-cocktail-garden

If you enjoy a delicious cocktail now and then, you may want to start your own cocktail garden. That way, if you need cilantro, strawberries, mint, or another ingredient for a cocktail recipe, you'll have it right at your fingertips. Check out some growing tips for your burgeoning cocktail garden.

Herbs

Mint: Grow your mint in well-drained soil in an area with partial shade. Get mint plants at the farmers' market and plant them approximately two feet apart. Mint plants can grow to be two feet tall, so they need a lot of room to spread. If there is a dry period, give your mint plants some water. You can use mint in an old maid, a Ginger Rogers, and, of course, a mint julep. I like the idea of growing mint because it can be used in all types of drinks, even a refreshing lemonade!

Sage: Get your sage plants at the farmers' market and find a space for them in your cocktail garden that gets full sunlight. They are drought-tolerant so water them only if the soil is completely dry. A sage bee's knees cocktail and a sage gin martini are two cocktails to try with your homegrown sage.

Basil: Basil is another member of your cocktail garden that needs full sunlight. Also, basil plants grow best in moist soil. Plant them about ten to 12 inches apart. Use basil in delicious drinks like a cucumber, basil, and lime gimlet or a strawberry-rhubarb Bellini with basil.

Cilantro: Put your cilantro plants in full sunlight about 12 inches apart. The soil should be moist but not soggy. Some cocktails that include cilantro as an ingredient include a cilantro mojito or a jalapeno cilantro margarita.

Fruit

Strawberries: Plant your strawberry plants in a place in your garden that receives at least eight hours of full sunlight. Your strawberries need one to two inches of water each week to flourish. There are many cocktails that involve strawberries, like a strawberry gin and tonic or a strawberry gin smash.

Raspberries: Raspberries need full sun to grow. Soak the roots of your raspberry plant for about two hours before planting it in your cocktail garden. Leave two or three feet between your plants, and provide them with an inch of water each week. The raspberry caipirinha, the raspberry margarita, and the berry cosmo are three types of cocktails to try.

Tomatoes: If you like Bloody Marys or tomato gimlets, then you need a good supply of tomatoes. Put your tomato plants in the full sun, and provide them with a stake or trellis so they have support as they grow. Be sure to give your tomato plants an inch of water each week.

Vegetables

Horseradish: If you love to drink Bloody Marys or horseradish vodka, then you need to have some horseradish on hand. To grow horseradish, find a spot in your cocktail garden that receives full sunlight. Water your horseradish once a week if you go through a period without any rain.

Cucumber: Plant your cucumber plants at the base of a trellis so the vines have support. Choose an area with full sunlight and well-drained soil. A spicy spa-garita or a summer wind are two cocktails with cucumbers.

Flowers

There are many edible flowers you can use as garnishes for cocktails or non-alcoholic drinks. Growing violas is easily done in moist soil in an area that receives partial shade. Cover them with about 1/8 of an inch of soil. The Delft blue is one cocktail that includes violas as a garnish. Meanwhile, a cocktail called the real fruit lemon drop uses pansies as a garnish. Pansies are grown in well-drained soil and full sunlight, but they do best in cool temperatures.

I hope you start your own cocktail garden and use its plants in all sorts of recipes. Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: garden of herbs

The How-To Guide To Composting

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, Apr 26, 2018

banana-peel-guide-to-composting

Maybe you've thought about starting a compost pile, but you weren't sure if you could do it. Well, it's easier than you think. Today, I'm giving you the steps of creating a compost pile and just a few of the benefits of taking on this project for your family.

Great Reasons to Compost

When you compost, you are keeping fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, egg shells, and more out of the landfill. You are disposing of these items in a natural way that will put nutrients back into the soil. Another reason to compost is you can use it as a natural fertilizer for your garden. This means you can skip using chemical fertilizer that can run off and end up in nearby streams and other waterways. Composting helps soil to retain moisture, which means you don't have to water your garden as often during the spring and summer. I like the idea of teaching kids how to compost so they can continue the tradition with their families someday!

The Steps of Composting

The first step in the process is to find a compost bin. Some bins are made of plastic, while others are made of wood. There are bins available for purchase, or you may want to build your own compost bin. Think about the amount of material you plan to compost before selecting a bin.

Next, choose a location for your compost pile that is out of the sun and allows plenty of air circulation around. If you're creating an actual pile instead of using a bin, avoid putting it close to trees because their roots can steal nutrients away from your compost.

The third step is to start creating your layers. Use twigs as the first layer of your pile so you have drainage and air circulation. Next, cover the layer of twigs with leaves. Follow that with a layer of green, then a layer of brown, and add a little moisture without making it soggy. Green layers should be full of nitrogen-rich items such as coffee grounds, fruit peels, eggshells, vegetables, and flowers. Brown layers should include carbon-rich items such as coffee filters, shredded newspaper, small pieces of cardboard, dryer lint, napkins, paper towels, and dried grass clippings. Alternate green and brown layers to create a balanced compost pile.

Items That Do Not Go in Your Compost Pile

Scraps of fish and meat shouldn't go into your compost pile because the odor will attract mice, raccoons, cats, and neighborhood dogs who will dig through your compost pile and spread it around your property. Also, don't put animal waste, large branches, dairy products, coated paper, or sawdust in your compost pile.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Don't dump large amounts of citrus fruit peels onto your compost pile. The acid in these fruits can kill worms and other creatures that are helping to break down the elements in your compost pile.
  • After adding items to your compost pile, mix them with the lower layers.
  • Compost that is ready to be used in your garden will have a dark appearance and smell like earth. It will also have a crumbly texture.

I hope you decide to start a compost pile so you can help both your garden and the environment! Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: guide to composting

How, When, And Why You Should Aerate Your Lawn

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Mon, Apr 16, 2018

metal-carport-installed-on-lawn

Did you know that aerating your lawn can improve drainage? This is just one of the many benefits of aeration. It's a simple process that can make all the difference in the condition and appearance of your lawn. This week, let me help you learn about aerating and how it contributes to the health of your lawn.

Why Aerate Your Lawn?

Over time, your lawn's soil can become compacted. This makes it difficult for sunlight, water, and air to gain access to the roots of your grass. Poking holes in your lawn, or aerating, allows the sunlight, water, and air to seep down to the grass roots. All of this nourishment in the springtime leads to a beautiful lawn of green, healthy grass through the warm-weather months.

How to Aerate Your Lawn

When it comes to aerating your lawn, you have some options. You can go with a power, push, or handheld lawn aerator. There are even special spiked shoes you can buy that aerate your lawn as you walk across it! Whatever method you choose, be sure the soil is moist, not wet, before you begin the process. I suggest running a quick test with the help of a small garden trowel. Stick the trowel into the soil and pull it out. If the soil falls off of the blade, then it's OK to aerate. If it sticks to the blade, then the soil is too wet. Moist soil allows the spikes of the aerator to travel deep into the ground. Start at one side of your lawn and move across it with your aerator. When you reach the other side of your lawn, turn around and aerate on your way back to the starting point. Aerating in two directions helps you cover all areas of your lawn. As you pull the plugs of soil up out of your lawn, drop them on the grass as you go. They will decompose, giving the soil even more nutrients.

When to Aerate Your Lawn

When you aerate depends on whether you have warm- or cool-season grass. If you have warm-season grass, such as centipede grass or carpet grass, then it's best to aerate late in the springtime. Alternatively, fall or early spring is best if you have cool-season grass such as Kentucky bluegrass. Aerating should be done in mild temperatures so that grass has a chance to grow back and fill up the holes.

How Often Should I Aerate?

The answer to this question depends on the amount of traffic on your lawn. Maybe you have kids or grandkids constantly running and playing on your lawn. This type of activity can lead to soil compaction, so aerating once a year would be appropriate. However, if your lawn has very little traffic, aerating it every three to five years should be fine.

You might even want to get your kids or grandkids to help you with aeration this year. They can each work with a handheld aerator. It's a great opportunity to teach them how to keep grass healthy!

Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: aerate your lawn

 

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