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Alan Bernau Jr

Recent Posts

8 Tips For Staying Safe In The Summer Sun

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, Jul 18, 2019

staying-safe-in-summer-sun

Do you love to work in your garden at this time of year? Or maybe your children love being outside more than you do, making their way to the swimming pool in the morning and not coming home until late afternoon. Whether you're walking the dog, mowing the lawn, or reading outdoors, I hope you're enjoying the sunshine each day. But before heading outdoors, it's important to take steps to protect your skin against sunburn and more permanent damage caused by the sun's UV rays. Take a look at a few tips to keep in mind before making the most of these summer days.

  1. Limit Your Time Outside During the Peak Period of Sunlight: Sunlight is at its highest intensity between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. You can avoid sunburn by limiting your time outdoors during this period.
  2. Wear Sunscreen With the Proper SPF: Look for sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more. Also, make sure it's a water-resistant sunscreen that protects against UVB and UVA rays. This is known as a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Finally, read the label of the sunscreen and choose one that doesn't contain a potentially harmful chemical called oxybenzone.
  3. Wear Sunglasses and a Hat: A wide-brimmed hat can protect the tops of your ears and your nose, neck, and face from the harsh sunlight. Sunglasses not only provide protection when you garden or cut the lawn, but they shield your eyes from UV rays. I think it's a great opportunity to get the kids in the habit of wearing hats and sunglasses as well.
  4. Keep the Baby Inside: If you have a baby who is six months old or younger, it's best to keep them out of the sunlight. If you must go out for an extended period of time, put your baby in a stroller with a shade. Also, there are hats for babies that protect them from the sun as well as make them look even more adorable on outings!
  5. Invest in UPF Clothing: Did you know that some clothes are made to provide protection from the sun? Yes indeed! Some brands of shorts, bathing suits, pants, shirts, and more have a UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor. You can look fashionable and protect your skin at the same time!
  6. Consider Your Medications: If you're taking antibiotics, blood pressure medication, anti-inflammatories, or medicines related to chemotherapy, be aware that these can make your skin more vulnerable to the sun's rays. Be sure to read the materials that come with the medication.
  7. Bring a Parasol or Umbrella: If you plan to sit outside to watch a horse show or your child's soccer game, take a parasol or an umbrella to hold over you. A simple umbrella can provide shade and help you keep a little cooler while you watch an outdoor event. Plus, if the rain clouds move in, you're all set!
  8. Choose Your Cosmetics With Care: Consider buying makeup such as foundation with an SPF factor. Also, if you wear lip balm, choose a brand with SPF protection to protect the sensitive skin on your lips.

Taking some steps to protect your skin from the sunlight can help you and your family members enjoy more peace of mind as you head out to relish these lovely summer days. Thanks for reading. - Alan

What To Do With Your Pets When You Go On Vacation

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Jul 16, 2019

what-to-do-with-your-pets-when-on-vacation

Are you planning to take a vacation this summer? If so, that's great! If you own a dog or a cat, you may be wondering how to handle their care while you're away. This week, I have some pet care suggestions that will give you peace of mind about your furry loved ones while you're away on vacation.

Call on a Family Member or a Neighbor

Ask a family member who lives close by if they will take your dog or cat into their home while you're away. Or ask a next-door neighbor if they'll check on your pet while you're gone. The neighbor can stop by your home a couple times a day to check on your cat and let your dog outside and make sure they have food and water. I think many pets feel more at ease in their own home even if their owner is away for a bit. Be sure to leave your neighbor instructions that include:

  • Where the pet food is kept and how much to give your dog or cat
  • Any special vitamins or pills that should be mixed into your pet's food
  • The length of time your dog should be outside to relieve itself
  • A phone number where you can be reached if there's a problem

Contact a Professional Pet-Sitter

Check out a website such as Rover.com to find people in your area who specialize in taking care of pets while their owners are on vacation. You simply enter your ZIP code, then select whether you want to board your pet or you'd like someone to drop by your home to care for your pet. You determine the details, and the website gives you a list of pet caregivers near you. You can read about each person and contact them for more details.

Arrange for Your Pet to Stay at a Kennel

Perhaps you'd prefer to leave your pet in a kennel where it will have care and supervision 24/7. If so, try doing an online search in your area and reading reviews on the kennels near you. Calling those you're interested in and asking questions about their prices and services is always a good idea. Be sure to pay the kennel a visit before leaving your pet there just to get a feel for the level of care. The manager should be happy to give you a tour of the kennel. Some of the things to look for during your visit include:

  • Clean sleep areas, exercise areas, and hallways
  • A spacious exercise area where your pet can run
  • A trained, friendly staff ready to answer your questions

Take Them With You

If you prefer to take your dog or cat along on your vacation, look for pet-friendly hotels to stay in. These places are happy to accommodate dogs and cats. Be sure to call beforehand and ask about any fees or other guidelines before making a reservation.

Whether you take your pet with you or leave it in good hands at home, enjoy your vacation this summer. Thanks for reading. - Alan

9 Ways To Reduce Your Summer Cooling Costs

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Jul 9, 2019

reduce-your-summer-cooling-costs

In the summertime, it's fun to be outside fishing, swimming, reading, barbecuing, and otherwise making the most of the beautiful weather. It's also nice to open the door of your home or office and step into a cool atmosphere on especially hot days. Unfortunately, you may find that your energy bill goes up in the summertime once the AC kicks on. Here are some simple things you can do to reduce your energy bills while still enjoying a comfortable atmosphere in your home or office.

  1. Plant Trees or Shrubs on the South or West Side of Your Home. Planting trees and shrubs on the south or west side of your house blocks sunlight, lowering the temperature inside your home. I like the idea of beautifying your property with trees and shrubs while lowering your energy bill; don't you?
  2. Put Up Light-Colored Curtains. Choose white, beige, or another light color for your window curtains. These colors reflect sunlight away from your home instead of absorbing it. A light curtain with a white plastic backing can reduce the amount of heat entering your home by 33%.
  3. Turn Off Lights That Aren't in Use. The lights in the rooms of your home can radiate heat. Make it a point to switch off lights you're not using. This not only reduces the heat in the house, but it saves electricity, too!
  4. Keep Your Oven Door Closed. Opening the oven to check on a casserole or pie sends a blast of heat out into your home. Not surprisingly, this may cause the air conditioner to kick on. It's a good idea to limit the number of times you check on items in the oven. Better yet, grill out for dinner!
  5. Open Your Windows at Night. Instead of keeping your air conditioner on all night, open a few windows in your home or office to let the cool night air in. The house cools off, and your AC gets a much-needed break.
  6. Get a Smart Thermostat. A smart thermostat can be programmed to maintain a particular temperature in your home. This helps you to avoid overusing your air conditioner and constantly readjusting the thermostat.
  7. Reset the Ceiling Fan. Set your ceiling fan paddles to move in a counterclockwise direction. This motion pushes cooler air downward, which can make you feel four degrees cooler.
  8. Check/Change Your HVAC Filter Regularly. When the filter in your HVAC unit gets dirty and clogged, it prevents your air conditioner from operating at its most efficient. An AC unit that is struggling to keep your home cool can really drive up your energy bill. Check the filter about once a month during the summer and change it if needed.
  9. Get a Dehumidifier. The job of a dehumidifier is to take the moisture out of the air in your home. This can help the space feel cooler. Running a portable dehumidifier for a while during the day is another way to give your air conditioner a break.

Try some of these tips and let me know how they're working for you! Thanks for reading. - Alan

How To Identify And Correct 10 Common Pool Issues

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Mon, Jul 1, 2019

10-common-pool-issues

If you own a swimming pool, you know how much effort it takes to keep the water clean and fresh. Not surprisingly, there are some pool issues that almost every owner has encountered. But take heart! These common problems have solutions that can get your pool water looking great once again.

  1. Green Water: The presence of green algae gives pool water a green tinge. It grows on the sides of a pool and floats in the water. This issue is caused by poor sanitation and filtration of the pool water. You can get rid of green algae by adding algaecide to your pool and cleaning the filter.
  2. Black Algae: If you see black material growing on the sides and bottom of your pool, you likely have a case of black algae. This is an intense organism that feeds on itself and can burrow into concrete. To get rid of black algae, it's necessary to shock your pool three times and sanitize toys and other items that go into it.
  3. Pink Slime: Take a look at the PVC pipes in your pool's filtration system. It's not uncommon for a pool owner to see a coating of pink slime inside the pipes. Pink slime is also found in shady areas of your pool, such as behind ladders or on a pool wall under the edge of a water slide. The first step in getting rid of pink slime is to manually scrub it off. Next, quadruple-shock your pool water with chlorine shock and run your pool filter for a full 24 hours. Vacuum and clean your pool diligently for the next four days, then test the pH and alkalinity levels to make sure they are normal.
  4. Foamy Water: Do you see bubbles floating on the surface of your pool water? If so, they may be caused by algaecide or perhaps deodorant, shampoo, or other products worn by swimmers. If you just used algaecide, the bubbles will go away in a few days. If you suspect the foam is from deodorant or shampoo, ask your swimmers to rinse off before going into your pool. There are anti-foam chemicals available if these changes don't get rid of your foamy water.
  5. Swimmers' Blonde Hair Turning Green: The cuticle of each hair usually protects it from exposure to metals, but the cuticle can wear away over time. Copper in the pool water can become oxidized by chlorine, and when it seeps through damaged hair cuticles, it will turn blonde hair green. The solution to this issue is for the person to reduce their swimming time and wash the green color out with lemon juice.
  6. A Sharp Odor: If your pool water has an odor, it usually means there is a buildup of organic waste or oils in it. If this happens, shock the pool water and check the efficiency of your filtering system.
  7. Low pH Level: When the pH level of your pool water is low, it can corrode pipe fittings and pump connections. That's why it's so important to test your pool's pH level daily. I suggest getting a test kit with numbers that are easy to read so you always have accurate information. To raise the pH level, add sodium carbonate to the water per the instructions. Retest the water an hour or so later to determine any changes.
  8. High pH Level: A high pH reading may be a result of using too many chemicals in your pool. To lower the pH level, add a pool pH-reducing product to the deepest part of your pool while the filtration system is running. This will help to disperse the product evenly. Finally, do another pH test to check the level.
  9. Underperforming Filtration System: If you notice a lot of leaves and debris floating in your pool, then your filtration system is not operating at its best. The solution is to backwash your filtration system to thoroughly clean it out.
  10. Pool Water Makes Swimmers' Eyes Burn: The burning is caused by a pH level that is off balance or too much sanitizer in the water. Check your pH levels to see if there is an imbalance. If not, check your automatic chlorinator and lower the setting.

Once you get the hang of balancing the chemical levels in your pool water, you can avoid many of these issues. Happy swimming, and thanks for reading. - Alan

What To Plant With A Late Start In The Garden

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Jun 25, 2019

start-late-tomatoe-garden

Were you really busy this spring? Maybe you had plans to plant a great vegetable garden, but it just never happened. No worries! There are vegetables you can plant at the end of June so you can still enjoy a flourishing garden this year.

Vegetables to Plant When You Get a Late Start

When looking for vegetables to plant in late June, I suggest you choose some that grow very quickly. In short, as the Rolling Stones would say, you want time on your side! For example, green beans mature in about 60 or 70 days. Beets mature in 45 to 60 days, while radishes mature in just 21 days.

Another tip to keep in mind is to plant smaller versions of traditional garden vegetables. For instance, cherry tomatoes are ideal for planting in late June. They are small and take less time to mature compared to a collection of beefsteak tomatoes. Also, go with small roasting potatoes in your garden as opposed to large baking potatoes. You can still grow your favorites at this time of year, but in smaller sizes.

Other fast-growing vegetables to consider for June include:

  • Cucumbers
  • Small onions
  • Yellow crookneck squash
  • Carrots

Try Some Cool-Weather Veggies

Another idea is to plant the seeds of some cool-weather vegetables in containers and keep them indoors. Cabbage, kale, spinach, peas, and broccoli are some good cold-weather veggies to start now. In August, you can transplant the seedlings into your garden. After going into your garden in August, they should be flourishing in October. Remember, these vegetables would not be suitable for planting in your garden in late June: They do not do well in the summer heat.

Seedlings vs. Seeds at This Time of Year

It's best to go with seedlings for many types of vegetables in late June. For instance, it's a bit late to start your tomato plants from seeds. Find tomato plants with developed vines so they already have a head start before they go into your garden. Some fast-growing vegetables you can grow by planting seeds at this time of year include mustard greens, beets, cucumbers, and beans.

Consider Your Planting Zone

Locating where you live on the plant hardiness zone map is the quickest way to find out exactly what you can successfully plant in late June. For instance, if you live in zone 7 on the plant hardiness map, you can plant cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, and summer squash at this time of year. Pinpointing your place on this helpful map increases your chances of planting a successful garden in late June.

Tips for Gardening on Hot Summer Days

One of the best parts of mid-to-late-summer gardening is getting out in the sunshine. It's a great way to spend an afternoon. I like to take in all the wonderful sounds of summer. To keep cool while you garden, try moistening a towel with cool water to put on your neck as you work. Wear a hat with a floppy brim to protect your face and neck from the heat of the sun. Or keep a small spray bottle handy and give yourself a spritz with cool water every 20 minutes or so.

Get outside and have some fun in your garden. You have a whole lot of summer left to enjoy! Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: start late garden

How To Attract Good Bugs And Deter Bad Bugs From The Garden

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Wed, Jun 12, 2019

attract-good-bugs-and-deter-bad-bugs

Have you noticed some bugs hanging around your vegetable garden? If so, don't be so quick to get rid of them: They may be beneficial for your vegetables. But how do you know for sure? I can help you with that! Today, I'm looking at how to put out the welcome mat for the good bugs and send the bad ones down the road.

Bugs That Are Good for Your Garden

It's in the best interest of your veggie garden to make it inviting to the following beneficial insects. Some good insects eat bad ones, preventing them from damaging the vegetables in your garden. Also, when you have good insects in your garden, you can avoid using harmful pesticides to protect your vegetables.

Ladybugs

Yep, ladybugs are on the good bug list! They specialize in eating aphids. In fact, they've been known to eat 50 or so aphids in one day. They also protect a garden from mites, mealybugs, and leafhoppers. You can make your vegetable garden appealing to ladybugs by planting yarrow, cilantro, and/or fennel.

Bees

Bees are pollinators that help a garden to flourish. You can make your garden attractive to them by planting colorful vegetables as well as pansies, lavender, or marigolds.

Praying Mantis

Seeing a praying mantis or two in your garden may give you the creeps, but they're helping your vegetables grow. They eat crickets, caterpillars, beetles, and moths that are destructive to a garden. Keep in mind that tall grass, marigolds, or shrubs are all inviting to praying mantis.

Ground Beetles

Ground beetles eat slugs, cabbage maggots, snails, and cutworms that can harm your vegetables. Creating a compost pile attracts ground beetles and helps you and your family to be more environmentally friendly, too.

Damsel Bugs

If you have a problem with cabbage worms, aphids, or caterpillars, then invite some damsel bugs to your garden. They love eating those and other pests. Plant some spearmint or fennel to make your garden more appealing to damsel bugs.

Bugs That Are Bad for Your Garden

Aphids

Aphids gnaw on the sensitive tissues of a plant. Also, they leave behind a substance that causes mold in a garden. Ladybugs, damsel bugs, and minute pirate bugs are all aphid-eaters. Petunias and marigolds are also repellent to aphids.

Maggots

These garden pests feast on the roots of vegetables. They can kill seedlings in no time. Putting a floating cover over your vegetables can prevent flies from leaving their eggs behind on your plants.

Spider Mites

Spider mites suck out a plant's juices, causing leaves to dry out and turn yellow. Be on the lookout for silk webs on the undersides of your plant leaves. Ladybugs, praying mantises, and assassin bugs are all insects that eat spider mites.

Potato Beetles

These bugs chew on leaves, making your vegetable garden look like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle. Ladybugs eat the larvae of potato beetles. (Ladybugs are certainly the stars of a garden!) Also, consider planting catnip, garlic, and nasturtiums as natural repellents to these bugs.

I hope you have plenty of welcome visitors in your vegetable garden this summer! Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: attract good bugs and deter bad bugs

7 Natural Methods For Cleaning The Grill

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Wed, Jun 5, 2019

cleaning-grill

The upside of firing up the grill for your family and friends is that you get to try delicious recipes such as quadruple chili cheeseburgers and honey-grilled chicken. The downside is cleaning the grit and grime off of the grill when the fun is over. If you're hesitant to clean your grill with store-bought solutions containing chemicals, then you're in luck! Today, I'm giving you the lowdown on some natural cleaning solutions that can really get the goop, grime, and grease off of your grill.

  1. White Vinegar and Aluminum Foil: Get a bottle of white vinegar from the grocery store and pour some of it into a spray bottle. Spray the vinegar onto your grill, wait three minutes, and scrub the grill with a sheet of aluminum foil. The acid in the vinegar loosens the burned residue, and the aluminum removes it.
  2. An Onion: Heat up your grill to loosen up the leftover bits of burned meat. Next, cut an onion in half, poke a fork into it, and scrub the hot grill with the cut half facing downward. If your grill is especially dirty, spray lemon juice on it before scrubbing with your onion. I think the best part about this method is that you probably already have a stash of onions on hand for your burgers!
  3. A Cleaning Solution With a Citrus Twist: This natural cleaning solution is made of citrus peels, citrus oils and, of course, good old white vinegar. After spraying this solution on a hot grill, getting rid of the grime is an easy process.
  4. Coffee Time! Who knew that coffee could clean a grimy grill?! Simply brew some inexpensive coffee and pour it onto your grill. Let the solution sit for an hour, then gently scrub off the loosened debris. Finish the job by pouring hot water over the grill. This method is great for cleaning your grill and helping you cut down on the caffeine.
  5. Baking Soda and White Vinegar. Put one tablespoon of baking soda and one tablespoon of white vinegar into a liter of hot water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution onto your grill and let it soak in for an hour. Finally, scrub your grill with a soft brush.
  6. The Power of Steam: Find a shallow tin dish and fill it with water. Light your barbecue, put the dish of water inside it, and close the lid. The water will boil, causing steam to flow all around inside your grill. The steam loosens the grit on the grill, making it easier to brush off.
  7. Give Your Grill a Beer: While your grill is still warm, pour half a bottle of beer over it. The beer will loosen the grease and grit, allowing you to scrub it off with ease. Cheers!

I hope you try one or more of these easy, natural ways to clean your grill. Your hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken will taste even better knowing that you clean your grill the natural way. Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: cleaning grill

The Best Apps For Plant And Flower Identification

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Fri, May 31, 2019

plant-and-flower-identification 

Have you ever seen a flower, plant, or tree and wished you knew its name? Maybe you recently spotted a plant in your yard that looks a lot like poison ivy and you want to know for sure. Well, guess what? There's an app for that! In fact, there are many plant identification apps. Check out these apps that can help you identify mystery flowers and plants all around you.

  1. PlantSnap. This Android app is easy to use and gives you accurate plant identification results in seconds. All you do is snap a picture and upload it to the app. The results come from a database of 585,000-plus plant species. This app is a free download.
  2. FlowerChecker. Take a photo of a plant, upload it in the app, and get your plant ID results from an expert botanist in an hour or less. FlowerChecker is compatible with Apple devices and costs $1 per successful identification of a plant.
  3. iNaturalist. If you like talking with other nature lovers about flowers and plants, this may be the app for you. Simply take a photo of a plant and share it in the app. Other nature-lovers will chime in with what they think you're looking at. This free app is compatible with Android devices.
  4. PictureThis. This free app has more than 30,000,000 users! Take a picture of a plant, upload it, and get identification results shortly thereafter. The results are provided by plant enthusiasts all over the globe. This app is Android- and iPhone-compatible.
  5. GardenAnswers. This free app is compatible with both iPhone and Android. Take a photo of a plant or flower, hit submit, and receive ID results from experts in horticulture. If you want fast, accurate results, this is a great choice!
  6. LikeThat Garden. The free LikeThat Garden app is compatible with Apple devices. Take a photo and get your results from the app's extensive database of plants and flowers. Read detailed descriptions and view more pictures of the plant you're interested in.
  7. Plantifier. Take a picture of an unknown plant or flower and let a community of plant enthusiasts help you to identify it. Plantifier is a free app and compatible with both Apple and Android devices.
  8. iPflanzen. Instead of taking a photo, iPflanzen asks you to provide information on the traits of an unknown plant. Results come from an extensive database of flowers and plants. I like the idea of an app that gets kids and adults studying the colors, shapes, and sizes of flowers. This free app is compatible with Apple devices and can work with other apps, including iGarten and iForest.
  9. Garden Tags. Take a picture of an unknown plant and share it with the community on Garden Tags. Get plant identification from fellow plant-lovers. This is a free app compatible with Android. In addition to plant IDs, you can get gardening tips and advice on this app.
  10. NatureGate. Instead of taking a photo to get an ID, enter information on a plant including its number of petals, color, habitat, and leaf shape. Entering information about a plant really gives you the opportunity to study it. NatureGate is a free app and compatible with iPhones.

A walk in the woods is even more enjoyable with the help of these and other plant identification apps. If you're a science teacher, take your students on a field trip to the woods and challenge them to identify at least 20 flowers. If you're a parent, while you're on vacation in the mountains or at the lake, work with your kids to discover and identify unfamiliar flowers together. Make a game of seeing which family member can identify the most flowers in 30 minutes! Talking about the flowers they've identified is another way to get kids excited about the natural world around them.

Next time you see an interesting-looking flower or plant, consult your go-to plant ID app and get all the answers. Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: apps plant identifcation

Guide To Getting Your Pool Ready For The Summer

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, May 30, 2019

getting-pool-ready-for-summer

A backyard swimming pool is a great thing to have, especially in the depths of a humid summer. If you're lucky enough to have your own swimming pool, I have a quick guide to help you with the grand opening this year!

Take Off the Pool Cover

Before removing the pool cover, use a broom or leaf blower to clean off the leaves, sticks, and other debris so they won't fall into your pool. If any water has collected on top of your pool cover, use a submersible pump to drain it off. After removing the cover, use a hose to clean it and spread the cover out on the grass to dry. Once it's dry, fold it up and put it into storage.

Add Water and Reconnect Plumbing

Turn on your garden hose and put it into your pool. You want the water level to reach the mid-point of your skimmer so it can start to filter your pool water again. As the water rises, turn off the breakers to your swimming pool so you can replace all of the drain plugs on the filter and heater. Take the opportunity to reconnect the plumbing parts of your swimming pool equipment that were disconnected for the cold weather months.

Start the Pump

Once the water level is halfway up the skimmer, prime your pool pump. Be sure to remove the winterizing plugs you put into the skimmer and returns so the water flows freely.

Check the Pump for Leaks

Running the pump and the heater gives you the chance to look for leaks in your pipes. If you see one, use a piece of duct tape to mark the leaking area so you can get it repaired. If you don't have any leaks, run the pump all day and night so you can flush out all of the pipes completely.

Clean the Pool

With your pump running, the water in your pool is circulating and the skimmer is picking up floating debris. The drain at the bottom of your pool is also picking up debris. If the water in your pool is clear and you see leaves and other debris on the bottom, then get out your pool vacuum. Switch the valve on your filter to the waste setting so whatever travels into your vacuum goes directly to the waste port.

Test the Water

Once you're done vacuuming, take a sample of your pool's water using a testing kit. These kits test for chlorine, pH, and bromine. Go to the deep end and dip your sample vials at least a foot beneath the surface to get an accurate reading. Put the proper drops into the sample water and follow the directions as you read the results. Ask one of your children or grandkids to help you: It's a great opportunity for them to learn a simple lesson about chemistry! Once you have the results, start adding the necessary chemicals to your pool water according to their instructions.

Maintain Good Circulation

Continue to circulate the water in your pool for about 12 hours a day to make sure the system is working as it should. Check your chemical levels each day and add more if necessary. You want to get back to the point where your pool's chemical levels balance out.

Common Issues

Leaks in the pipes around your pool's pump or filter are a common occurrence. Take a few moments to tighten the connections before calling in a professional to make a repair.

Another common issue is algae. This is the green stuff that grows on the bottom of a pool and moves up its walls. You can shock the pool with chemicals to get rid of the algae growth.

Helpful Tips

  • Get a friend to help you open your pool. It's much easier to fold a pool cover, spot leaks, etc., with two people. Plus, the job is more enjoyable with a good friend.
  • Open your pool several days before Memorial Day if you can. Opening your pool before the traditional day allows you to avoid the crowds at the pool supply store and have quick access to a pool professional if you need one.

Good luck with opening your swimming pool this year! Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: getting pool ready for summer

The Basics of Companion Planting In The Garden

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, May 21, 2019

companion-planting-in-the-garden

Do you love the idea of having your own garden full of tomatoes, beans, onions, squash, beets, melons, and cucumbers along with other veggies and fruits? Well, before you jump right in and start digging, consider companion planting. This type of planting can increase the odds that you'll have a flourishing, colorful garden this year.

What Is Companion Planting?

Companion planting is just what it sounds like. It's putting two or three plants together in a garden that will benefit one another as they grow. Of course, there are some veggies and fruits that are more companionable than others.

Vegetables and Fruits Perfect for Companion Planting

Lettuce and Tomatoes

Am I placing an order for a hamburger? No, these two items are companion plants. Tomato plants grow to be very tall. Their height provides shade and protection to lettuce, a cool-season veggie that grows near the ground. Eggplants can be substituted for tomato plants if you prefer.

Carrots and Radishes

These two veggies grow well together because they both grow underground but radishes are harvested first: They help loosen up the soil, then are harvested and make way for the carrots to grow.

Melons, Squash, and Herbs

If melons and squash are on the list of fruits for your garden, plant them beside dill, parsley, and fennel. These herbs are attractive to pollinators like butterflies and bees, and melons and squash require the help of pollinators to grow.

Onions and Peppers

The biggest part of an onion grows beneath ground level, so they claim very little space in your garden. Plus, they repel garden pests like slugs, cabbage worms, and aphids. These pests love to munch on peppers, making onions a suitable companion plant.

Corn, Pole Beans, and Pumpkin

The tall corn in this planting scenario gives the pole bean vines support as they grow. The pole beans add to the richness of the soil by releasing nitrogen into it. Pumpkins grow low to the ground and help to keep the soil moist for all three plants. In addition, pumpkins have spiny stems, which are a deterrent for rodents that want to chomp on the beans and corn! This companion combination is known as the three sisters.

Veggies and Fruits Not Suitable as Companion Plants

Not every plant is a good neighbor: There are some veggies and fruit plants that would just as soon stay clear of one another.

Tomatoes and Potatoes

Tomatoes and potatoes are not suitable for companion planting. They're both vulnerable to the same type of blight, so if one gets infected, the other will, too.

Green Beans and Onions

These two work well together in a casserole dish but not so much in the garden. Onions of any kind can slow down or even stop the growth of beans.

Cucumbers and Sage

It would seem like there's little harm in planting these two items together. However, a fragrant gathering of sage can attract garden pests such as aphids and whiteflies. These pests would accept the invitation and start to gnaw on your cucumbers.

Taking some time to plan can help you end up with a flourishing garden of vegetables and fruits. Thanks for reading. - Alan

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