<span>July 2018</span>

  • Using and Choosing a Leaf Blower

    It’s the time of year when every week or two, you have to put on an old tee shirt, step into a pair of comfortable worn out pants, and make your way to retrieve lawn mower, line trimmer, lawn bags, and a leaf blower.

    What many people make the mistake of believing is if they buy a blower or blower-vacuum combination, they’ll never have to do anything else again. What’s more, the amount of time needed to cleanup lawn trimmings and leaves will be dramatically reduced. While it’s true that leaf blowers/vacs are great tools to making cleanup more efficient, they do not have a miracle button to press that magically does the job.

    It’s also true that these landscaping tools will help to put the finishing touch on your lawn work, be that cleaning up fallen leaves, to blowing away grass clippings after mowing your lawn. The bigger the machine is, the more power and features it will have, generally speaking, which means that it will be a more versatile tool which will lend a helping hand in more ways than one. The key is to use your leaf blower in the way it was intended to get the most out of it.

    Using a Leaf Blower the Right Way

    Okay, so you’re probably thinking that using a leaf blower is no more difficult than just picking it up, starting it up or turning it on, and then point and shoot. However, anyone that’s used a leaf blower at least one time knows that it’s quite possible, probable, or even nearly inescapable, that painting one’s self in a corner is a reality. In other words, people pick up their blower and/or vacuum, start it and then blow leaves in one direction only to have to try and keep from blowing the ever growing pile away from itself. Wind is another factor that can cause leaves to be carried from one end of the yard to another.

    Leaf blowers are versatile machines. They can take the raking out of autumn cleanup, and also double as driveway sweepers or snow clearers. Some models vacuum; others bag mulch, clean gutters, or spray trees…their power serves a purpose: Blowers are the easiest way to quickly gather big messes of leaves into manageable piles. —This Old House

    To make yourself more productive and get those leaves up in a faster manner, start by placing a tarp in the center of your lawn, pinned down at all four corners with a stake or held down with rocks or bricks. Then, start at the left corner nearest your home and move to the center, blowing the leaves onto the tarp. Do yourself a big, huge, monumental favor and do not fuss over every single leaf because that’s extremely counterproductive and it will cost you a lot of frustration and time. Once you’ve gotten the first corner space cleaned up, cinch-up the tarp and empty it into a composting pile or into a trash bin.

    Then, go to the other corner nearest your home and repeat the process. Do the same for the corners nearest the street, toward the center. While this will leave some leaves sprinkled across the lawn, those will be very easy to rake into a small pile and dispose of in the same manner as the other four piles.

    Choosing a Leaf Blower

    Having the right machine on-hand means choosing a leaf blower that truly fits your needs. Size and scale are quite important, meaning that if you have an average sized yard, you don’t need an industrial sized model. Most all blower-vacs will require some form of hearing protection, even the electric can be loud enough to cause your ears to hurt. There are a number of models and their versatility, as well, as power source, will be the deciding factors:

    • Electric blowers. These come in corded models and cordless models. If you choose a corded model, ensure that you have an extension cord that’s long enough to reach beyond the borders of your yard. Cordless models will be more convenient because of their mobility, but will have less power and battery drain will be in-play.
    • Gas blowers. These are among the most powerful, also the most noisiest, and will emit fumes. These models typically take a mix of gas and two-stroke oil, which means you’ll need a gas can and bottles of the right oil. Because these have an engine, you’ll have to keep the air filter clean and occasionally replace the oil filter and spark plug.
    • Combination blowers, vacuums, mulchers. These models are quite versatile but not necessarily as powerful as their gas cousins. In addition, you’ll find that these can easily clog when vacuuming and the mulching might be slow and tedious.
  • How to Keep Pond Predators Away from Your Yard

    You took the time and effort, not to mention, incurred the cost, of putting a wonderful and beautiful landscape feature into your backyard. It’s an eye-catching water feature that is home to fish. You do what you can to keep them healthy, which includes keeping the water feature in its best condition and feed them regularly.

    One day, you notice something that’s a bit odd, and, it’s also unnerving. You go out to throw in a bit of food and it occurs to you that there are fewer fish in your pond. At first, you think just perhaps, a few expired, but then you can’t find them anywhere. Slowly, it begins to become quite apparent that you’re dealing with a problem.

    Something is poaching your pond fish and you have to deal with it. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that can be done about pond predators, but that’s certainly to not say that you’re helpless. Pond predators not only eat fish, they also do other harm to your water feature. Needless to say, you’ve first got to identify the source of the problems and then take action. The good news is, that you have a few options to exercise to keep your fish safe and to keep your water feature in its best condition.

    Types of Common Pond Predators

    It might be disheartening, but your beautiful water feature, home to colorful fish, is a magnet to differ types of predators and other problematic creatures. However, you also have the benefit of attracting creatures that will help to protect your pond. If you see these creatures around your landscape water feature, you have a helping hand in combating some problem predators and other harmful things that have an adverse impact on your pond.

    A backyard fish pond provides a tranquil centerpiece, but predators, ranging from birds to raccoons, threaten the fish population if you don’t protect the pond. Shallow ponds are more susceptible to problems because predators have easier access and the fish have fewer place to hide. No matter the depth of your pond, you can limit access or scare away predators before they get your fish. —San Francisco Chronicle

    Frogs are one such amiable amphibian. When you see a clump of slimy balls, those are tadpoles, which you ought to welcome in your pond. Tadpoles are helpful because they will hatch and swim about, eating away at the algae, which is a good thing. Snakes aren’t likable or wanted by most people, but these slithering reptiles eat mice and other pests that you certainly don’t want to be on your property. Then, there are dragonflies, who feed on mosquitoes, which are a nuance and can carry disease.


    Ways to Keep Pond Predators Away

    Even though heron are a protected species and raccoons are quite clever, there are ways to keep pond predators away. If you take a few preventive measures, you’ll be able to amply protect your pond and its inhabitants. Here are a few things you can do to predator proof your pond:

    • Install decoys as deterrents. You can keep raccoons away with an alligator decoy and birds from feeding on your fish by putting-in a heron decoy. Raccoons won’t go into the water if they see what they think is a live alligator, while herons will pass by because they see another heron already staking a claim.
    • Put-in netting to cover your pond. Netting works very well to deter pond predators and is retractable. It’s best to cover your pond in the early evening to protect your fish overnight because dusk and nighttime are when predators are often most active.
    • Set alarms nearby, surrounding your water feature. There are alarms equipped with motion sensors and emit a high-pitched sound, along with flashing lights, to send predators scampering away. The most effective ones can operate during the night.

    Two More Ways to Keep Pond Predators Away from Your Landscape Water Feature

    Of course, there are other creatures you don’t want on your property and especially not in or near your pond. One is the raccoon, which are very dexterous, despite the fact they don’t have opposable thumbs. Though raccoons aren’t fond of the water, they will get wet, if it means snagging a nice meal. Another creature that poses a problem to the well being of your fish are birds, particularly heron, which are a protected species here in Florida.

    • Use repellents to keep predators at bay. There are a number of predator repellents you can spread around and nearby your pond to keep problematic creatures from feeding on your fish. These drive squirrels and raccoons away and can be reapplied after rain.
    • Provide your fish with hiding places. Another way to protect fish from predators is to have floating hiding spots. Aquatic vegetation not only enhances the look of your pond, providing a more natural habitat, but also provides places for fish to hide.

    Fencing is also something you can install to keep predators away and even domesticated animals.