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While the temperatures remain relatively warm during the day, it is obvious that Fall is in the air. Nights are cool. The leaves are beginning to change. Annuals that you may have planted in the spring are now looking relatively straggly. The grass is slowing down in its growth. As Mother Nature changes her decor, so too should you. Who’s got time to tackle some home maintenance projects?

OUTDOORS

  • Fresh Fall planters renew your home’s decor

    Pull out annuals that are leggy and spent. While you are at it, dig out summer bulbs and store them for the season. You can replace those bulbs with spring flowers, like crocuses, daffodils and tulips for that burst of colour first thing in the spring.

  • The garden isn’t the only thing that needs some TLC. Your planters are probably looking rather spent as well. Renew them with a hint of fall flair in choices like colourful mums, cool-weather-loving kale, jazzy grasses, and a selection of pumpkins and gourds.
  • Keep cutting your grass right up until it stops growing. Think about over-seeding in the early part of the fall. While the weather stays warm, continue watering your grass. A fall fertilizer applied in October will also give your lawn that boost it needs to shine next spring. Once you have cut the grass for the last time, make sure to winterize your lawn care equipment before putting it to bed for the winter.
  • When the leaves transform into a beautiful rainbow overhead, a camera might be the first thing that you think to reach for. The next thing you reach for though will be a rake. That stunning canopy only lasts so long before it gently drifts to the ground and you have some work to do. Whether you prefer a rake, leaf blower, or mulcher, now is the time to amass yard waste bags in preparation for leaf raking season.

INDOORS

  • Storm windows will keep the heat Inside your home this winter

    Prepping your indoor world for winter is a good idea too. Slowly reintroduce any plants that you took outside for the summer, back indoors. They need to gradually readjust, but most certainly can’t handle any frost or other frigid temperatures.

  • There aren’t too many hot breezes blowing through your home anymore. Time to switch your ceiling fans to clockwise for the winter. That will pull cool air up off the floor and push the warmer air off the ceiling and down the walls towards the floor. It is a simple step that will save you a couple of degrees in your house and dollars in your pocket.
  • While insects might still be buzzing in your yard, they will be gone soon, and with them the need for window screens. Now is the time to remove, wash and store your screens and haul out your storm windows if you’ve got them. While you are at it, check for any drafts and caulk around windows as necessary. If those drafts are bad enough, why not think about replacing those leaky windows altogether? It might be more expensive than tacking up plastic window barriers, but replacement windows add more value to the resale value of your home in the long run.
  • Don’t put the caulking gun away too fast. Since it is out already, now is a great time to recaulk the tub, fill any cracks in your foundation or around outdoor faucets, seal around doors, and winterize your home as needed.

There’s  plenty more to be done around the house this Autumn, but as the days get shorter, energy levels tend to lag. One step at a time my friends! It will all get done eventually…

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Did you get a chance to stop and smell the flowers last weekend? It is amazing to watch them go from tiny buds to fully open colourful carpets of life in your yard. Of course I have also noticed that the warm weather has brought out carpets of another flower in my yard. More specifically, the field of yellow is a sea of dandelions that is competing with the newly green lawn.

Sigh…

Dandelions

Genus Taraxacum; sunny yellow dandelions

Welcome to life as a homeowner. So what do we do with these sunny weeds that were brought over to North America compliments of our early European settlers? Now that is a question that has been asked by lawn lovers for an awfully long time. How about one of these helpful suggestions;

DANDELIONS: Fight or Foster?

I remember picking dandelions as a child and chanting the ominous little ditty “Mama had a baby and its head popped off”, as I popped the end of the flower off of its stalk. A bit macabre, but it filled hours of entertainment for all the neighbourhood kids and potentially eradicated at least a few new weeds in our parent’s lawns. Nowadays though, most North Americans first response when they see these infamous yellow flowers is to grimace. It used to be that you would get out the weed killer and spray those little buggers out of existence, but since 2009 cosmetic pesticides have been banned in Ontario. That means that if you want to get rid of the virulent Taraxacum invasion in your yard, you have to other means.

Dandelion Digger from Lee Valley

The obvious, but extremely time-consuming answer is to dig the dandelions out of your yard. Cutting them down with the lawn mower might remove the flower head and some of the long, tooth-shaped leaves, but you have to get to the root of the problem. Literally. Because even if you shear the plant to the ground, this perennial plant will keep coming back year after year. That is unless you pull the dandelion out, tap-root and all. And those tap-roots can be 15 cm or longer. You will need a ‘dandelion digger’, or a simple trowel (if your back can hack it). Your only other ingredient is time to dig them up.

Vinegar; the natural herbicide

If digging dandelions doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, there are some other options to get rid of those pesky plants. Dandelions need plenty of sunlight to grow. If you smother them, cutting off their source of sun, you will kill the flower. Of course if your yard is overrun by them, you will also be effectively killing the grass around them too. Think of this as a small-sized solution or conversely, a wide-reaching one. You can also pour boiling water over the plant several times a day until it dies. Vinegar also works to clean your world inside and out. Spraying vinegar on a dandelion plant works as an effective natural herbicide that won’t harm the soil or contaminate ground water.

There are a few other methods to combat your battle with dandelions. One is to over-seed your lawn. This simple step not only improves the health and look of your lawn, but it also chokes out weeds, making it harder for them to flourish. Another tip that lawn care companies will gladly suggest is to improve the quality of your soil. Dandelions love acidic soil. If you improve your soil with mulch or compost, dandelions get weaker and less likely to thrive or take root in the first place. As a bonus, this also makes them easier to pull out!

Of course you could also learn to love the prevalent weed. They do make for sunny spots in amongst the green grass in the spring. They are also edible, from their roots, to bitter leaves, to brilliant yellow flowers. You can add leaves to your salad for a dash of calcium and iron. They also contain vitamin A, B complex, C, D, potassium, and even zinc. Plus, they are low in calories! The common dandelion has even been used in various herbal remedies, such as being used as a diuretic, stimulating appetite, aiding digestion, detoxifying the liver and gallbladder and just generally improving the immune system. Not bad for a plant that most homeowners consider a scourge on their property.

So if you break down and pick a pack of dandelions this spring, why not think of taking them to the kitchen, instead of depositing them in your local yard waste bags. This recipe for dandelion pesto from David Lebovitz, just might help to sway you in leaving at least a small pocket of yellow in your yard, if not for your children than at least for your culinary taste buds. Enjoy!

Dandelion Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces (350g) washed and cleaned dandelion leaves
  • 1 cup (250ml) olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 6 tablespoons (40g) pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 1/2 ounces (70g) Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated

Directions:

1. Put about one-third of the dandelion greens in the food processor or blender with the olive oil and chop for a minute, scraping down the sides. Add the remaining dandelion greens in two batches, until they’re all finely chopped up.

2. Add the garlic cloves, pine nuts, salt, and Parmesan, and process until everything is a smooth puree.

3. Taste, and add more salt if necessary. If it’s too thick, you can thin it with more olive oil or water.
Storage: The pesto can be refrigerated in a jar for up to four days. The top may darken, which is normal. You can pour a thin layer of olive oil on top to prevent that. It can also be frozen for up to two months.

Good luck with your (delicious/dastardly) dandelion dilemma!

Labour Day has come and gone. The school bell rang this morning and all the kiddos filed in for another season of ABC’s and 1,2,3’s. Can I get a fist pump parents? Woohoo!

Cork Elementary School Bell

Not so fast though! Just because the kids have headed back to school, doesn’t mean that you don’t have a thing or two to learn as well! Of course, my version of learning comes from home maintenance, as you might well imagine. So here are a few ABC’s and 1,2,3’s that you home owner’s might want to think about now that the kids aren’t constantly underfoot. Back to work with you!

THE HOME OWNER’S GUIDE TO ABC’s & 1,2,3’s

Autumn

Autumn (Photo credit: blmiers2)

A – Autumn is a great time to give a good clean to yard tools, before storing them for the winter. Sharpen the blades on your shears (and whatever other sharp tools you’ve got). Don’t forget to oil them before putting them away either. Check to make sure your rake is handy and will make it through another season of raking. With all the drought-like conditions we have had this summer, the leaves seem to be turning already, so start warming up those raking muscles! Pull out the summer annuals that are looking ragged and replace them with festive mums and kale. It’s almost time to plant spring bulbs too! I don’t even want to think about it yet, but you also might want to move your snow shovel to a handier spot too. Just saying!

B – Brushes that have been ignored during the humid months of summer deserve to be picked up again to apply a fresh coat of paint to the house. Update the kitchen or freshen up the bathroom. Start the school year off right with a fresh start for everything and everyone in your house, including everyone’s bedroom walls! The temperatures will only be dropping from here on out, so making your home more inviting, when you will be spending more time indoors, will be a delight on those cold winter nights when all you want to do is cocoon.

C – Clean out the cupboards of the summer gear. With the school bell rung, sneakers are the shoe of choice for children now. It is a perfect time to toss the ratty flip flops and store your strappy sandals for another season. At some point a little rain might fall, so grab your galoshes and get them handy, along with the fall coats. As you are cleaning and storing summer gear, you also might want to cover your patio table and store your chairs. Lazy days in the hammock are pretty much over too, so if you store it for winter, now is the time!

Plus,

1 – Once a month the furnace filter needs to be replaced. I am not saying that you need to turn on the furnace just yet, but it might be time to go look at your furnace and see when the last time you replaced its filter was. The cold winds of winter will be blowing around soon enough, so make sure that you are prepared for when they arrive. While you are at it, you might even want to have your furnace inspected and cleaned before winter is knocking on your door.

2 – Twice a year you should seal your tile grout and now is the perfect time to do that. The heat and humidity of summer are on the wane, making indoor projects less gruelling. This is a project that many home owners forget, but applying a sealant protects your tiles from mildew and mold. As many bathrooms are tiled, and humidity is a given in this room, this is a project that you should definitely have on your home improvement list.

Lawn

Lawn (Photo credit: प्रतीक)

3 – Remember the big 3 of fall lawn care; fertilizer, overseeding, water! Just because the heat of summer is gone, doesn’t mean that its time to ignore our lawn’s needs. You should continue to water your grass right up until your lawn stops growing. Look towards a greener lawn next year, by overseeding and fertilizing now to ensure a healthier lawn in the spring. While it doesn’t need to be done twice a year, if you didn’t aerate your lawn this spring, you might want to consider it now as well.

With the well-needed rain that we received last week the world looks a little fresher again. Trees might still be under stress, but they certainly drank up every bit of precipitation that fell. Other plants soaked up all of Mother Nature’s gifts as well. The farmers will be offering thanks, as did other resident gardens. Even the lawns have perked up and are gaining back a measure of green from the crispy brown that indicated its dormancy. You know what that means though, don’t you? It’s time to cut the grass again!

Lawn Mower

Lawn Mower (Photo credit: Beedle Um Bum)

GRASS CUTTING 101

So now that your lawn has started to perk up, it is time to fire up the old lawn mower again. Wonderful, but is there anything that you should know, before you attack those green blades?

  • Cutting the grass helps to encourage new grass plants to grow, thus making your lawn thicker. When you cut off the growing tip of a grass blade, it forces the plant to branch out making it denser. With a thicker lawn, fewer weeds are able to get a foothold and take over your lawn. Plus, it just looks nicer, as many a homeowner can attest to.

So cutting the grass is actually a positive thing for a healthy lawn. And of course, for your relationship with your neighbours. Is there anything you should know about the how-to of grass cutting though? Professional golf greens don’t have to have anything up on you to make your lawn the pride of the neighbourhood. You just need a little common sense and the right tools for the job.

Step 1: Make sure that your lawn mower’s blade is sharp. A sharp blade will cut through the grass. A dull blade tears the grass, leaving an uneven cut, which makes your lawn look uneven. Plus, this makes it vulnerable to drought, disease and other pests.

Step 2: Walk over the lawn beforehand in order to pick up any toys, branches or other debris, before starting to cut the grass.

Step 3: Set your mower’s blade to an appropriate height. The recommended amount of grass to cut at any one time is approximately 1/3 of its height. While you might think that cutting your grass shorter will save you work, you aren’t doing any favours for your lawn. In fact, leaving your lawn at a slightly longer length will protect it during drought. It also encourages more upright growth, deeper roots and more shade tolerance.

Step 4: Ensure that your mower is properly fuelled. That means checking your oil (should be changed at least once a year) and adding gas as necessary. Don’t refuel your mower on the grass, as any spills will damage your grass, plus could be a fire hazard.

*While those of you with an electric mower might think you are ahead of the game, remember that you are limited in distance by your cord. You must also watch out not run over the cord while mowing!

Step 5: Wear appropriate garb for lawn mowing. That means closed-toe shoes and long pants my friends. You also might want to put on some protective covering for your ears, as lawn mowers tend to be loud machines.

Step 6: Start ‘er up and get cutting! Mow around the perimeter first, then cut back and forth across the lawn. As you cut your grass, overlap your rows. Over subsequent cuttings, mow in opposite directions so as not to compact the soil.

Lawn

Lawn (Photo credit: प्रतीक)

Now you have a perfectly cut lawn! Awesome, but there are a few other things to consider;

  • NEVER cut the grass when wet. It increases the likelihood of slipping, which is an accident waiting to happen. Also, it can clog the discharge chute of your mower, which you don’t want. If you don’t have a bagger, it makes for a more difficult clean-up as well (wet grass sticks to EVERYTHING). Plus, you can compact the soil.
  • NEVER leave a running lawn mower unattended. That is another accident in the making.
  • Save your mowing for the daytime. While it really doesn’t matter what time of day, cutting the grass in the dark increases the likelihood of accidents, as you cannot see where you are mowing or what you might run over.
  • Leave your grass clippings on the lawn. They are a free source of organic fertilizer, which improves the state of your lawn. Plus, you don’t have to worry about bagging them for compost days or the garbage. You should only worry about leaving grass clippings on the lawn if they are excessively long or if they are full of weeds (you will be helping to spread those weeds if you leave them there).

The temperatures may be fluctuating between snow and sweet, warm sunshine, but regardless of the mercury, Spring is here to stay. I have already made a few suggestions for early spring projects, but there is still plenty to do around your house and home. I am sure that your lawn chairs have come out of winter storage, but how many other tasks have been checked off the list as far as Spring maintenance goes? Do you need to make a new list? I know that I do, so am willing to bet there are a few others of you out there too. Wouldn’t you rather be outside anyway? Come on, let’s get to it!

SPRING TO-DO LIST IN THE YARD:

  • Prune, trim and remove any perennials that were left for winter interest in your garden, including those that did not survive. That means cutting grasses back, trimming sedums and hydrangeas of last year’s flower heads, plus pruning dead wood from rose bushes and dogwoods. You can also now cut back raspberry canes and last year’s clematis to promote new growth.
  • Give your garden a leg up by amending your garden’s soil. Empty your composter into garden beds and watch your plants thrive with the new nutrients available.
  • Since you are already working hard to improve the look of your garden, grab an edger and give a fresh edge to garden beds. It will help when it comes time to mow the grass as well.

Agri-Fab tine dethatcher pulled by a lawn tractor

  • Now that you have moved into the lawn, grab your rake or dethatcher and dethatch the grass. A light raking will break up any compacted areas, as well as remove last year’s dead leaves that escaped fall cleanup.
  • While you are at it, have  your lawn aerated to improve oxygen flow to the roots. This will strengthen your grass and lessen the amount of weeds to combat.
  • For more weed deterrents, top-dress, apply spring fertilizer, and reseed the lawn as necessary. The stronger your grass, the less chance weeds will get to establish a foothold in your precious green space.
  • Before you pull the lawn mower out of winter hibernation, oil and sharpen its blades. Don’t forget the rest of your garden tools too!
  • Kilmeadan - The Cosy Thatch Pub rain barrel

    Take advantage of the April showers by installing a rain barrel in your yard. When the hot, dry days of summer take hold, you will be glad you did and so will the plants in your garden.

  • Don’t forget about the wildlife that visits your garden either. Thoroughly clean any feeders or bird bathes before setting them out for the season. That goes for your toad homes and bat houses as well! Many of the birds, butterflies, bats and other critters that swing through your yard are beneficial to your garden, often fertilizing plants and eating detrimental bugs that would otherwise devastate your yard. A healthy garden includes local wildlife, so support them in your cause.

Welcome to In Your Neighbourhood!

Allow me to introduce myself. The name is Jim. You want to know more? Well, check out my "About Me" page! Don't forget to take a peek at my "Local London Listings" while you are here too! I update it regularly. Enjoy your visit and drop me a line to let me know you were in the neighbourhood!

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