There is more to mowing grass than just pushing the mower back and forth. Did you know there are correct ways to mow your grass? Plus, knowing what the proper cutting length is and what to do about lawn clippings are important in keeping a healthy lawn.
Mow at the Right Frequency
There is a correct way to mow a lawn to get the cleanest, well-kept look. By keeping the grass at the right length, it keeps your grass stress-free and healthy. Grass should be a little longer during the hot summer months, especially in places that are in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 9b like Houston, Phoenix, New Orleans, and Tampa. When grass is permitted to grow a little longer, the roots grow deeper, and the grass gives the soil cover from the hot sun. It forms an insulation that lets the soil better maintain its moisture.
Mowing at the right frequency is key. During fall, the most common lawn mowing frequency in Houston is bi-weekly, or every two weeks, with 83 percent of Houstoniteschoosing this option. However, if you get lawn treatment and water more frequently, you may want to consider weekly.
Plus, the blade of the mower needs to be sharp. If the blade is dull, then it will shred the tops of the grass. Shredded grass tips can leave grass susceptible to diseases.
The Correct Way to Mow Your Grass
The first thing to do is to adjust the height of the mower so that the mower doesn’t butcher the grass. Also, if the lawn is shady, then it will benefit from setting the mower blades at a higher height. Because photosynthesis helps grass grow, a longer blade of grass has more surface for conducting photosynthesis. This is one secret to developing a healthy lawn when parts or all of it stay in the shade.
Also, don’t scalp the grass by cutting it too short. When a lawn is scalped, it becomes vulnerable to disease and invites weeds. By scalping a lawn, it exposes the soil, and the grass becomes sparse and weak. Plus, this gives the sun an opportunity to feed the weed seeds in the soil so that they start to grow. A lawn that is cut too short will have a system of poorly developed roots and this will cause damage to a lawn from hot days or drought.
The best rule of thumb is to follow the one-third rule: If more than a one-third of the grass blade is cut off, it can damage the grass.
Another tip is to mow when the grass is dry. When grass is mowed when wet, it’s not harmful to the lawn, but the results can look mediocre. This is because grass that’s wet will clog the mower and this makes it more difficult to mow. The grass also clumps and causes an uneven cutting pattern. In addition, if clumps of wet grass are left on the lawn, then it can kill the grass under the clumps.
When you mow in the middle of the day in the sun, it causes the lawn stress. The individual blades of grass will lose water quickly and recover more slowly. You can either mow in the cooler part of the day or mow the area when it’s covered in shade. This will let the grass rebound quicker. Also, when mowing, don’t always follow the same pattern. This can create ruts and compacts the soil. Compacted soil and ruts can cause unhealthy grass, which can provide places for weeds to start growing.
What to Do With Grass Clippings?
One problem that crops up is what do you do with the grass clippings when finished? A solution to that is called “grasscycling.” This is when you let the grass clippings lay on the lawn after it’s cut. When this is done, it can provide up to 25 percent of what the lawn needs as fertilizer. It also saves money on fees and yard waste bags. A specialized mulching mower isn’t necessarily required, but you can put a mulching blade on the mower that you already have. Grasscycling works well if your grass is mowed often. It can be done on grass that is cut when it’s longer — if you don’t have a mulcher, rake the piles of clippings flat after mowing and then run the mower back over them.
As you can see, there is more to mowing grass than just pushing the mower around the yard. If done correctly, it can revitalize your lawn.
Katie Kuchta is a marketing guru, gardening and outdoor living expert, and self-proclaimed foodie. She can often be found cooking in the kitchen or on the hunt for the best tacos. Follow her on Instagram @atxtacoqueen.
Source: CB Blue Matter Blog
Once you have decided to install solar panels, it’s important to research which solar panels are best for you, your home and your budget.
Guest post by Lauren White
The solar panel industry has developed exponentially, in the past decade. Much of that is owed to increased demand. According to the Department of Energy, Americans use 23 times more solar energy now than we did around ten years ago.
Homeowners have more solar energy options than ever before. In order to meet demand and outshine the competition, companies are putting their resources toward research and development. They are constantly working toward creating more efficient and innovative solar energy technology.
Once you have decided to install solar panels, it’s important to research which solar panels are best for you, your home and your budget. There are generally three solar panel choices for residential homes: Thin-Film, Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline. These three panels are part of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, which means they convert the sun’s photons into electricity.
Perfect for: The homeowner with a small budget, a low-to-average rate of energy consumption, and lots of area for installation.
The cells of thin-film panels are constructed by layering photovoltaic material on glass, metal or plastic. These layers can be measured in nanometers, significantly thinner than in traditional panels. Their thin construction makes them lightweight and flexible, and they have a low cost of production. As such, they come at a lower cost to consumers.
One drawback of this technology is its rate of degradation. These solar panels have an average life expectancy of 10-15 years, depending on the photovoltaic material used. Comparatively, monocrystalline solar panels have a life expectancy of 25-35 years.
Another drawback is their low efficiency rating of 7-15%. This rate doesn’t work well for homes consuming more than the national average of 11,000 kWh per year. Also, these panels must be installed over a significant amount of space, which can be a deterrent for homeowners with limited area for installation.
In recent years, technology has improved and certain thin-film technologies are pushing past 20% efficiency. With a higher efficiency rating, this technology can meet higher energy demands and become a greater competitor in the market.
Perfect for: The eco-conscious homeowner with wiggle room in their budget, an average rate of energy consumption, and perhaps a penchant for the color blue.
Polycrystalline panels are constructed by melting silicon into molds to create perfect square “wafers.’ These wafers of silicon are then installed on a grid to form the panel. The cost of making these panels is relatively low and the process produces minimal waste. This makes polycrystalline a more affordable option than the original solar panel, monocrystalline.
The efficiency rating for polycrystalline panels is typically 13-16%. They would perform best in homes with typical rates of consumption. You will still need a significant amount of installation space, for these panels, in order to achieve optimal benefits. You must also take into consideration whether or not your taste will agree with their blue tint.
Perfect for: The homeowner with less roof space for installation and/or a higher rate of energy consumption, who wants a longer-lasting product and can make a sizeable investment.
Monocrystalline panels were the first solar panels to be made available. Currently, they are some of the most expensive. Each panel is created using high-purity silicon cut into “wafers.” These silicon wafers are extremely efficient at converting photons into energy, with monocrystalline panels hovering around a 22% efficiency rating.
Since these panels can convert more energy per square foot, you won’t need as much space for installation. Greater energy conversion also means you’ll be able to power more appliances, like hot tubs, heated pools and electric cars.
Get What You Pay for—and Then Some
In most cases, homeowners surveyed by HomeAdvisor say the cost of installing solar panels is much less than their projected energy savings over a twenty year period. In fact, it’s been estimated that, in 2017, homeowners in Massachusetts and California will save double their investment in solar energy.
Calculate Your Estimated Savings
If you’re not sure of your ROI, Google has a convenient tool called Project Sunroof, which will calculate your estimated savings based on your specific home address. As for your installation cost, you can request local estimates through HomeAdvisor to get a realistic figure for budgeting.
While you’re doing your research, or when you are speaking with a professional, see what’s new and on the horizon in the industry. These technologies are developing so rapidly, there are breakthroughs on a yearly basis. In July of 2017, for example, scientists developed a solar cell with 44.5% efficiency. There is hope that this technology, and others like it, can be streamlined and integrated into the residential and commercial solar market.
Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matter Blog
Armed with a little know how – you can make your pool season trouble free!
1. Evaluate the Task at Hand
Always check for leaks at the start of the season—all you need is a bucket. Just fill it three-fourths of the way full and mark the water line inside, place it in the pool, mark the line on the outside and let it float for a couple days. If the water goes down the same amount inside and out, it is from evaporation, but if it goes down more on the outside, there is a leak and you’ll need to call a pro.
2. Keep It Clean
- Skim Debris – If you have trees, bushes or other plants nearby, the wind can blow debris into the pool. To keep it clean, increase the water circulation and use fewer chemicals, and use a skimmer to scoop out the debris out on a weekly basis.
- Vacuum Frequently – Not all debris floats on top, so to get the hard-to-reach debris, you should vacuum the pool on a weekly basis for about half an hour. You can always buy an automated vacuum that runs on a schedule, so you don’t have to worry about it.
- Filter and Pump – To keep water clean and save energy, run the pump daily for every 10 degrees (e.g., if it’s 80 degrees outside, run the pool pump for eight hours). Keep water healthy and clear by cleaning the filter every other week. Simply empty the filter bag or remove the filter and hose it down. If the pump is unusually loud, leaking or doesn’t hold pressure, it’s time to call a professional. If you have a home warranty with pool coverage, you’ll also save time and energy not having to find a qualified service professional yourself.
3. Get an A in Chemical Chemistry
Test water levels weekly with a home pool water test kit to make sure chemicals are balanced and safe. Optimal chemical levels vary depending on the season and weather conditions, but the pool’s pH levels should fall between 7.2 and 7.8 consistently for the cleanest water. This will also help protect your pool equipment. Water becomes more acidic with lower pH levels, which can cause costly damage to your pump, filter and anything else that it comes in contact with.
Summertime….and the living is easy! If you know how to prep for it!
Our friends at HomeAdvisor 5 important steps for prepping your home for summer.
While summertime is perfect for outdoor gatherings with friends and family, it can also be a dangerous, and inefficient, time for your home. That’s why it’s important to have a preparation strategy in place before the hotter months arrive. These quick tips will help you prep your home for summer, and ensure it stays safe and inviting all summer long.
Schedule an Air Conditioning (AC) Inspection
Suffering through the hottest summer months with no AC isn’t fun, especially if you’re playing host to friends or family. Having an AC professional look at your unit before summer officially arrives will address any potential problems before they become major headaches. You can also DIY some preliminary maintenance. Clearing saplings, grass and other underbrush away from your unit will improve airflow and help prevent clogs. Replacing the air filters in your home’s HVAC will also help your AC function at its peak efficiency.
Look for Insulation Leaks and Inefficiencies
Poor insulation will allow cooled air to escape, resulting in a hot home and enormous energy bills. Fortunately, spotting faulty insulation isn’t difficult. Begin by looking for deterioration around your doors and windows. Caulk, door sweeps and weather stripping should address the majority of your door- and window-related leaks. It’s also a good idea to have a professional perform an energy audit. Pros will be able to identify hard-to-spot inefficiencies in other parts of your home and HVAC system.
Prep for Pests
It wouldn’t be summer without pests. And in addition to being an annoyance, some pests can actually damage your home and even present health problems. Spraying insect barriers around the exterior of your home is a good beginning, but it’s also important to prep the interior of your home. Sealing all food sources and potential entry points like window frames and doors is an important part of finalizing your pest proofing.
P.S. Be sure to read any warnings or instructions that come with pesticides. Improper applications can threaten the safety of your home, especially if you have pets or small children.
Inspect Your Roof
Summer is mostly known for its beautiful weather, but it can also be a time of severe thunderstorms or worse. This makes having a sturdy roof very important, especially during inclement summertime weather. Begin your inspection by looking for loose shingles, faulty flashing or other clear signs of damage. Your attic can also be home to leaks, rot and other problems not obvious from the outside of your home. Examining your attic insulation, walls and rafters for signs of moisture will help you prevent water damage and structural deterioration. If you notice signs of damage, it’s best to call a pro. Roof repair can be extensive and are rarely DIY-appropriate.
Reinvigorate Your Outdoor Spaces
Wintertime can take a toll on the appearance of your yard, patio and other outdoor living areas. Removing downed tree limbs, replanting dead flowers and power washing your patio and decking are simple ways to jumpstart your home’s summertime exterior. Your grill can also accumulate gunk during the colder months. Be sure to clean its interior and exterior before your first BBQ. Updating your tired outdoor furniture will also improve the looks and comfort of your entertainment areas. Wrap-around sofas, comfy loveseats and luxurious hammocks are ideal additions to any outdoor space. You can perfect your entertainment areas with colorful throw pillows, planters, hanging candles and outdoor lighting.
Source: CB Blue Matter
Ahhhhh, the sweet smells of summer BBQ! Nothing beats grilling and chilling!
There’s nothing better than the flavor and presentation of food cooked on a grill. The slightly smoky flavor and ease of preparation makes grilling one of the top cooking methods any time of the year. Even when there is a chill in the air, stepping outside to grill a meal is quick and easy.
Now that summer is around the corner, many of us are dining al fresco, and that often includes a grilled dish. Almost any food can be grilled, from steak to Portobello mushrooms, and occasionally a food that you wouldn’t imagine, such as thickly cut Greek cheese (Halloumi), which grills perfectly.
For those who don’t have access to an outdoor grill, I’ve had success with cast-iron indoor grilling pans. Indoor grilling pans, which can be found in any cookware store, add a depth of flavor similar to outdoor gas grilling. I own two square ones that fit over a burner and can accommodate two servings of protein or four pieces of fresh corn or sliced eggplant.
Here are some of my tips to make the most of your grilling.
What to Grill
Most important, you need to know which foods are best grilled. Any cut of meat or chicken is ideal for grilling.
For dark-meat chicken, I recommend cooking it first in the oven to get it about three quarters done and then finishing it on the grill to avoid overly dark or blackened skin. Chicken breasts cook quickly about three minutes per side. I recommend you pound the chicken to an even thickness to assure perfect doneness.
Fish is best if you choose steak fish (such as tuna, salmon, swordfish or shark) or whole fish (such as snapper or bass). Shellfish, including shrimp, scallops, clams and lobster, are wonderful on the grill and can be served room temperature or as part of a salad. I tend to avoid thin fish fillets for grilling as they are too delicate for the high heat and difficult to move off the grill.
All kinds of grilled vegetables are wonderful. My personal favorites are asparagus, mushrooms, onions, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower, unripe tomatoes and corn. Consider buying a grill basket for smaller veggies to avoid them falling into the grill. For the vegetarians among us, both tofu and tempeh are delicious in their grilled form, especially paired with a flavorful marinade.
Get the Grill Ready
To prepare the grill, heat is of utmost importance for a guaranteed non-stick surface. If your food is not ready to turn easily, simply leave it another minute to ensure the proper sear. If you are grilling something with little to no marinade, be sure to spray the grill lightly with vegetable cooking spray or brush lightly with olive oil.
My favorite element in grilling is the marinade. A marinade can be as simple as vinaigrette with a few fresh herbs mixed in, and sauces such as salsas, pestos and reserved boiled marinades add a ton of flavor to just about any grilled food.
Because there’s no sauce or fat in the pan, and most grilled foods cook fairly quickly, a marinade not only tenderizes, but adds flavor. I usually marinate dishes for at least two hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator, depending on what you’re preparing.
I recommend reserving the leftover marinade and bringing it to a boil in a small saucepan for four or five minutes, to kill any bacteria, along with a little red wine, if desired, and you have an amazing sauce to drizzle over your grilled dish.
There’s the Rub
Fish is one exception where the marinade can actually cook the fish, so don’t marinate fish and shellfish for more than an hour. This is where a spice rub can be the perfect flavor enhancer. I often use spice rubs for tuna, salmon or shrimp.
Simply toast a few of your favorite spices, such as cumin, mustard seeds, peppercorns and coriander. Grind them in a coffee or spice grinder, coat the fish lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle the spices and a pinch of sea salt. You’ve now elevated your fish to another level.
I love the taste of grilled bread and often serve it lightly brushed with extra virgin olive oil and rubbed with a cut clove of garlic, as you might enjoy in Tuscany. Grill the bread for three or four minutes on each side and serve with chopped tomatoes, olives and mushrooms, or, serve it plain, with a few shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano. I often make hummus or a spread, such as a white bean puree, to serve guests while they are having a chilled glass of wine.