Lawn and Garden

Homeowners liable for snow and ice control

11/17/2017

(BPT) - Whenever it snows, it is common to see shopping center employees and business owners out and about clearing pathways, parking spaces and entrances of snow and ice. But this isn’t just good business to help customers get in the door, it is also a liability issue should someone slip, fall and injure themselves. Homeowners, too, face similar, albeit more limited, liability if they fail to take adequate steps to remove such slippery hazards from their property.

Generally speaking, homeowners are responsible for limiting dangers on their property, but in some cases this can also extend to public sidewalks abutting the home. In some localities, Homeowners Associations (HOAs), and governments also require that homeowners clear snow and ice or face fines. A regional survey of county and municipal ordinances conducted by the Salt Institute found that 83 percent have written policies directing property owners to remove accumulated snow and ice "within 24 hours of the end of the snowstorm." Penalties for property owners not complying can range from nominal tickets to misdemeanors punishable by up to 90 days in jail and fines of up to $500.

Shoveling snow is simple enough, but ice is another matter, and nothing works better to remove ice or prevent ice from forming than salt. Salt lowers water’s freezing point, the temperature at which it changes from a liquid to a solid and vice versa. Melting water that is already frozen is called deicing and is applied once ice appears. Preventing water from freezing in the first place is called anti-icing and is applied when a freeze is expected.

Commercially available anti-icing materials include salt (sodium chloride), calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium acetate and calcium magnesium acetate. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but salt brine remains the best choice for anti-icing in temperatures above 15 degrees F (minus 9.4 degrees C) and continues to work in temperatures as low as minus 6 degrees F. For extremely low temperatures, look for a mixture using calcium or magnesium chloride instead.

Laws regarding snow and ice clearing vary by state and locality, but most mandate that some action be taken within a reasonable time period after it stops snowing. For example, the Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act states that any owner who "removes or attempts to remove snow or ice from sidewalks abutting the property shall not be liable for any personal injuries allegedly caused by the snowy or icy condition of the sidewalk resulting from his or her acts or omissions unless the alleged misconduct was willful or wanton."

The dangers from slips and falls should not be taken lightly, especially for the elderly. Each year thousands are rushed to emergency rooms as a result of icy falls with injuries that could have easily been prevented. One enterprising hospital, St. Vincent’s in Indianapolis, Indiana, even decided to give away road salt to local residents one winter to try and prevent such injuries and the resulting emergency room visits. In the end, the person who is most likely to slip and fall is the homeowner themselves.



Survey: Messy garages stand in the way of Americans pursuing their passions

11/16/2017

(BPT) - Americans would love more time to pursue hobbies they’re passionate about, and time-drains like disorganized garages are a big obstacle to doing the activities they enjoy, according to a new survey conducted by Gladiator and Kelton Global.

Eighty-four percent of Americans surveyed would like more time for their passions, and nearly 40 percent said a lack of time was standing in the way, the study found. Instead of partaking in hobbies like adventure sports, arts, reading, music and gardening, Americans are spending more time running errands (41 percent) and even catching up on much-needed rest (44 percent).

Americans’ passions

Hobbies aren’t just for fun in the minds of most Americans, the survey found. In fact, respondents say their passions help them maintain happiness and relieve stress. Fifty-nine percent say engaging in their favorite activities is a stress-reliever for them. What’s more, many feel their hobbies help define who they are; 24 percent of adventure seekers associate their hobbies with their self-identity.

What’s getting in the way

While a lack of time is a significant obstacle to Americans’ pursuit of their passions, it’s not the only one. According to survey respondents, other factors standing in the way include:

* Not having enough money (49 percent)

* Other priorities, such as family (39 percent)

* Work obligations (23 percent)

* Resting (44 percent)

* Cleaning and organizing their home (34 percent)

Sacrificing for passions

When it comes to finding more time to pursue their passions, Americans are willing to go to great lengths. More than a third of the working Americans surveyed leave work early to engage in hobbies, and 27 percent would take a sick day.

Survey respondents say if they could have more time for their hobbies, they also would be willing to:

* Sacrifice an hour of sleep every night for a month (25 percent)

* Give up coffee for a month (25 percent)

* Get a tattoo (15 percent)

* Wear something silly in public (17 percent)

* Spend an extra half hour per day stuck in traffic (11 percent)

* Give up their cell phones for a month (12 percent)

Solutions instead of sacrifice

Many Americans understand disorganization can cut into time they would like to spend on other pursuits, including their hobbies. Of course, the gear, supplies and equipment needed for hobbies like outdoor sports, electronics and arts and crafts often get stored in garages. Getting help with garage organization could free up time for Americans to do the things they really love.

Gladiator recently launched nine new GearTrack(R) Packs designed to make it easier for Americans to organize all the accoutrements that they need to pursue their passions. Building off the original GearTrack(R) Pack, each custom kit features a unique set of hooks, baskets and storage spaces designed to accommodate items for different activities such as gardening, bicycling, basketball, football, baseball, sports bags and golf gear. Visit GladiatorGarageWorks.com to learn more.

Study was conducted by Kelton Global, a leading global insights research firm, between April 12-16, 2017 among 3,127 Americans ages 18+ with a margin of error of +/- 1.8.



Behind the Fuss for Real Grass Playing Fields

11/15/2017

(BPT) - Whether attending a child’s scrimmage, the hottest college bowl game of the week or a professional playoff, the vibrant expanse of a football field offers more than a colorful canvas for the action. Often an afterthought for spectators, the choice of playing surface – natural vs. artificial – is a major decision for sports teams and field managers that goes far beyond aesthetics. According to Don Follett, director of fields and grounds for the Baltimore Ravens, the decision to transition M&T Bank Stadium back to natural grass at the start of the 2016 season was driven by the players. “A few of our key players asked that we entertain natural grass,” said Follett. “Ultimately, we decided that real football should be played on real grass.”

Why the fuss over real grass for sports fields? Venues choose one surface versus another for reasons that are highly specific to their situations. The following themes, however, consistently pop up:

Injury considerations

When first introduced, artificial turf had less cushioning and more surface hardness than it does today, affecting the probability and severity of injuries. Today, the installation of artificial turf involves a mix of sand or crumb rubber infill, which absorbs impact energy and provides surface cushioning. Over time, however, as infill levels decrease from being packed down or migrating, more infill must be added to maintain the target depth range provided from the turf manufacturer. Additionally, based on some of the research, an athlete’s foot is more likely to snag in a synthetic system, which creates more force on the foot, ankle and knee when trying to turn or change directions. In comparison, natural grass can be more forgiving when players stop or turn quickly.

While injury rates are not statistically significant between one playing surface and another, given a choice, professional football players tend to favor natural grass fields over artificial turf. Their preferences have been associated with beliefs that there are more lower body injuries when playing on artificial turf. In a 2010 survey of NFL players, 69 percent preferred a natural surface. Perceptions about safety and wear on the body likely factored in, as players cited artificial turf as a contributor to injuries (82 percent), soreness and fatigue (89 percent), a shorter career (89 percent) and a reduced quality of life after football (64 percent). “In their [players’] minds, natural is better, safer,” continued Follett.

Health and comfort issues

Beyond injuries, natural and artificial turf have other health and safety impacts. Natural grass fields have regular growth, watering and mowing cycles, allowing for constant rejuvenation and decomposition of various compounds. The dense root and shoot systems characteristic of healthy turfgrass support a large population of soil micro-flora and -fauna. These organisms offer one of the most active biological systems for the degradation of trapped organic chemicals and pesticides. According to Tim Van Loo, president of the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) and a certified sports field manager, “the soil of natural turfgrass systems includes microbes that break down certain compounds, such as pesticides, potentially noxious organic chemicals and even bacteria from bodily fluids, such as blood and spit.” With synthetic fields, regular maintenance – sweeping, dragging, loosening and redistribution of infill, and cleaning – is necessary to keep them in top form.

Turfgrass has the added benefit of contributing to noise and glare reductions. Natural grass absorbs sound and can reduce noise levels by up to 10 decibels. Variation in the size, shape and angle of individual grass blades disperses sunlight to reduce glare and improve visibility in sunny conditions. Both qualities can benefit players and spectators alike in large and noisy stadiums.

Playability factors

Artificial fields are often cited for enabling more continuous play than their natural counterparts, which may need time to recover between heavy use. With a little pre-planning, turf managers can mitigate most of these challenges and protect the long-term playability of their natural turf fields. “The life of a natural field can be extended by rotating activities between fields, changing the daily location of practice on a field, or moving drills and practices around the field,” said Van Loo. Taking care to preserve the quality and coverage of natural turf can also reduce unpredictable ball roll and bounce that may occur with bare, patchy growth.

Likewise, modern drainage systems are mitigating much of the water concern previously associated with natural grass. When asked how the Ravens’ field manages heavy rains, Follett explained, “We put in a full sand-based drainage system that percolates at 13 inches an hour; it would take a remarkable amount of rain.”

In warmer regions, heat presents a different challenge. The University of Missouri Turfgrass Research Center conducted a study in 2010 comparing surface temperatures of different types of playing fields. The university found that synthetic fields dissipate radiant heat, with surface temperatures regularly exceeding that of natural grass fields by 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to ensure player safety, teams must schedule practice and game times to cooler periods of the day or run irrigation systems that cool fields with water.

Environmental concerns

When choosing a surface, environmental impacts must also be considered. Fertilizer and pesticides are often associated with natural turf. However, organic options are proving successful and newer environmentally friendly fertilizer applications are now available. Additionally, the root and thatch layer in natural turf systems acts as a filter and removes pollutants before they enter surface or groundwater.

If water use is a concern, field managers can take conservation steps. Many recreational fields are overwatered, and devices such as rain sensors, soil moisture probes or evapotranspiration pans can help manage irrigation efficiency. Other water-saving options include using a drought-resistant species or encouraging deeper root development by allowing grass to grow taller.

With artificial turf, other environmental issues lurk below the surface. Crumb rubber infill comes from shredded tires that contain zinc and other metals. Some fear such elements could escape into the air or leach into water. Additionally, when artificial fields are replaced, the synthetic turf often ends up in landfills.

Economic impacts

The final decision on natural grass or synthetic often comes down to immediate and long-term costs. According to the STMA, a natural field can cost from $0.60 to $5.00 per square foot, depending on soils and drainage installation, while construction of synthetic systems can run $4.50 to $10.25 per square foot. Annual natural turf maintenance costs vary based on the facility and climate regions, but annual expenditures average between $20,000 to $30,000 per field and are competitive with synthetic field maintenance and repairs. Based on Follett’s experience, while there were initial costs to transition M&T Bank Stadium back to natural turf, “there is not a significant difference in the ongoing maintenance of well-kept artificial turf and grass.”

Choosing between natural and artificial turf is not easy. It is a decision every field manager must weigh carefully, evaluating all factors including the perceptions of players and spectators to ensure long-term support for the field. “I recall one player coming up to me on the sidelines of a game,” said Follett. “He gave me a big bear hug and said, ‘Dude, you have extended my career.’ Statistically, there isn’t strong evidence in either direction, but perception is reality.”



Desperate deer turn winter into the most dangerous season for pricey landscape plants

11/14/2017

(BPT) - Deer can cause major damage to yards in any season, but in winter they can be downright deadly to some of the most expensive backyard landscape plants. When regular foods like leaves, grass and annuals become scarce, deer turn their attention to woody plants, shrubs and trees that stay green in winter, like rhododendron, arborvitaes, yew, holly, and those that lose their leaves, like oak, willow and dogwood trees. Deer will tear away at the lower leaves and branches of these shrubs and trees, which won’t grow back evenly and may be permanently damaged, in need of replacement, come springtime.

Arborvitaes and other landscape shrubs and trees can take years to grow to maturity. They’re also the foundation of your backyard’s beauty. Deer damage in winter can add up to a big budget-busting bill to replace plants, not to mention negatively affecting the beautiful aesthetics of your yard and garden.

Because food is scarce, and high deer populations mean more competition for food, deer are likely to be more resistant to efforts to evacuate them. They’ll return to areas where they found plentiful pickings in warm weather, and be more inclined to stay put until an area is stripped clean of all possible food sources. A single adult deer eats about 12 pounds of foliage a day and does usually occupy the same 3- to 4-square-mile area for their entire lives. During her lifetime, a doe will procreate every year, having as many as two or three fawns at a time. If you’ve had deer in your yard before, it is more than likely your yard is on their list to forage and is at risk this winter.

Deterring deer

Homeowners need to be proactive and prevent deer damage during winter. No one wants to be faced with the expense of replacing deer-damaged shrubs or trees.

Fencing can be effective if the fence is higher than deer can jump (at least 8 feet), but many suburban areas limit fence heights. Even if your neighborhood allows a high fence, building one is expensive and can be unsightly.

Some homeowners turn to a range of “home remedies” intended to be harmless to deer, people and pets. However, remedies like pepper spray, soap or predator urine may be harmless but rarely deliver reliable results for deterring deer. Commercial repellents may not have been third-party tested for efficacy, or they rely on harsh chemicals that may be harmful to the environment, pets and other landscape plants. To be most effective in winter, when deer are desperate, repellents should be applied in fall, and continually reapplied as needed, throughout the cold months. Using a repellent all year, conditioning deer to skip your yard, is always your best bet.

A better repellent solution

The Connecticut Department of Forestry tested deer repellents (including Bobbex, Hinder, Liquid Fence, Chew-Not, Big Game, Deer Off, Plantskydd, coyote urine) and concluded Bobbex Deer Repellent is 93 percent effective in repelling deer, only second to a physical barrier. Bobbex is a topical, all-natural foliar spray which prevents deer, moose and elk from browsing and damaging ornamental plantings, shrubs and trees.

Bobbex’s active ingredients are a series of proteins that make the product safe for the environment and for use on even the most sensitive foliage. Active ingredients include; putrescent eggs, garlic, fish oil, meat meal, clove oil, and other natural, safe ingredients. The product mimics predator scents that deer have an aversion to and is classified as a fear repellent, but it also tastes bad, adding another layer of protection for plants. Because it contains effective sticking agents, the repellent won’t wash off, even in harsh winter weather.

Left undeterred, deer can strip bare your landscape’s most expensive and susceptible plantings, leaving you with an unattractive yard and high repair bills when warm weather arrives. Taking preventive steps can help ensure deer learn to leave your yard alone throughout the winter, and with continued use, keep them at bay, all year long.



Your 7-step process to winterizing your lawn-care equipment

11/1/2017

(BPT) - Winter is coming and that means the end of another season of yardwork. This also means it’s time once again to store your tools and prepare them to endure the winter months ahead.

These tools have been good to you all season so it’s time to return the favor and follow the seven simple steps below to effectively store your equipment for the winter. A little extra care and attention at the end of fall will ensure you a hassle-free start in the spring and extend the life of your equipment.

* Keep your equipment indoors. Keeping your tools indoors during the winter months can help your equipment avoid some of the normal wear and tear that occurs during colder temperatures. A garage, shed or outbuilding is perfect for storage and if you don’t have an indoor option, covering your equipment with a tarp or protective cloth is another great way to protect them from winter's harsh elements.

* Drain or stabilize the fuel in equipment with engines. Any gasoline left in your gas-powered equipment can leave gum deposits and buildup that can potentially plug the fuel system. To protect your equipment drain the fuel system before storage or use a fuel stabilizer to keep the gas fresh until spring. If you decide to use a fuel stabilizer, let the engine run for at least five minutes after you add the stabilizer to ensure it gets into the carburetor.

* Drain and dispose of oil for equipment with engines. Oil left in your small engine while a machine is not in use can create sludge and ultimately ruin the engine. Drain the oil and catch it in a pan or container to dispose of properly by taking it to a recycling center or a waste facility. Once you have drained the oil, it can be helpful to put a note on your equipment that the engine is empty and needs to be refilled — that way you remember when spring rolls back around.

* Lubricate where needed. Lubricate all hinges and other moving parts on your machines so they don’t dry out while in storage. You should also lubricate them again after removing them from storage and attempting to start them up in the spring. Husqvarna offers a wide array of lubricants — as well as oil or fuel options — for any outdoor tool.

* Remove the spark plugs. It’s important to change the spark plugs in your equipment at the start of every new season. A great way to remember to change those spark plugs is to remove old ones before storing them for the winter. Removing spark plugs will make you remember in the spring when the engine doesn’t start that you are ready for a new one.

* Inspect those air filters. It’s easy to forget the air filter, but this tiny piece holds an invaluable role by preventing dirt from entering the engine’s carburetor. This inspection will save you time and money so take a moment to check the filter and clean it or replace it if you need to. Your engine will thank you.

* Don’t forget about your tools during the winter. While you may not need your tools during the winter months, checking on your tools a few times during the winter months is a great idea. This ensures no mice or other creatures have built any nests or started to chew on wires or other vulnerable parts of your equipment. These inspections are also the perfect time to make those long put-off repairs. Set your machine out in a comfortable work area and take your time fine tuning and pruning your equipment — see your dealer for any extensive tuneups.

Start your winterizing efforts today

The outdoor lawn care season may be over but there is still plenty of work to do. While it may be difficult to prioritize your tools now, a little bit of effort will improve their shelf life and ensure your tools will be ready for next spring when you need them most. To find the perfect tools and accessories for your lawn-care needs, visit Husqvarna.com.



The savvy homeowner's 5-point outdoor winterization checklist

10/31/2017

(BPT) - As temperatures drop, you're reminded that Old Man Winter will soon rear his ugly head. Before the first flurries fly, it's important to take some winterization steps to ensure your home is ready for whatever the season brings.

This five-point checklist will help safeguard your home against winter's woes for another year. For additional winterization ideas and detailed project plans, visit Real Cedar.com.

Inspect windows

Inspect each window from the outside to see if any gaps or cracks are present. These small openings let in cold air and are also inviting to small critters looking for protection from the cold.

If you find some gaps, it’s important to seal them quickly. Apply caulk to the openings to prevent cold air from seeping in, helping to cut down on heating bills. Plus, you won’t have to worry about bugs making your home their hibernation haven. Note: never caulk above or below the window and door openings, as this may block moisture drainage.

Prep the deck

The amount of work you have to put into winterizing your deck depends on your decking material. For example, a durable, long-lasting material such as Western Red Cedar requires the least amount of maintenance. That said, all decks require some upkeep.

To preserve your deck’s luster, start by cleaning it with a warm, soapy solution and a soft-bristle brush. Do not power wash as this can damage the wood. It’s important that you remove all dirt and debris from the surface as well as in between the boards to improve ventilation.

Next, inspect the deck for mold. If present, wash the deck with a mild oxygen bleach solution and leave on the surface for 30 minutes before rinsing thoroughly. Finally, remove anything that might leave marks on the deck’s surface such as furniture, planters and mats.

Protect planter boxes

The majority of planter boxes are made with Western Red Cedar. That’s because the wood is naturally resistant to rot, decay and insects; and therefore, doesn’t require treatment from potentially dangerous chemicals that can leach into soil and plants. But like all garden beds, real cedar planters need protection during the winter months.

Start by removing all soil and cleaning the boxes as you did the deck. Then, if possible, store emptied planters in a garage, shed or under the porch. If you don't have the space to store them this way, then cover them with a water-repellent tarp to protect from moisture buildup, but don’t seal the tarp. As with decks, it’s very important that you allow for proper ventilation.

Trim trees

Look for weak trees or those with dead branches, particularly those near your home. As snow accumulates, the weight may bring down a tree or branches, potentially damaging your house.

Eliminate this risk by removing any dead trees or dangerous branches now before the first snow. Be safe by using the proper equipment for tree trimming and removal, or, consider hiring a pro to do so. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and handling this issue now could prevent costly damage to your home down the road.

Clean the roof

Your roof is a large portion of your home, and it also holds a lot of snow over the winter. To prevent ice dams and other roof problems when freezing temperatures arrive, it's important to clean gutters and check your roof for problems now.

Start by taking all debris out of gutters to ensure free flow for water. Next, walk around your roof and inspect it for any damage. Repair loose shingles and make sure the chimney and vents look intact and secure. Your roof takes on a lot of weight from ice and snow during the winter months and you want it to be as strong as possible.

A few simple steps now can mean a cozy, safe winter for you and your entire family. Add these five steps to your winterization to-do list for this weekend and give yourself valuable peace of mind.



Build a classic concrete fire pit with a modern look

9/20/2017

(BPT) - Getting your backyard ready to entertain during the fall and winter months can take many forms. One popular outdoor trend is the addition of a fire pit. This trend seems to resurface every year for a variety of reasons. For some, a fire pit provides the perfect area for gathering family and friends on chilly nights. For others, a fire pit is an attractive feature that can increase the beauty of a backyard while offering the functional benefit of hosting “camp-style” type dinners. There are even homeowners that simply enjoy the calming effect of sitting by a cozy fire.

Whatever the reason, there are countless fire pit options ranging from cast iron cauldrons and paver stone kits to ceramic bowls and clay chimineas. However, for that truly authentic and rugged fire pit with a modern look, homeowners might consider building one out of a pre-mixed, packaged concrete like QUIKRETE 5000. While this approach will require some time and a little heavy lifting, you can take pride in creating a monumental finished product that is an affordable alternative to many other fire pits.

Steps for building a concrete fire pit

Note: When working with cement-based products, always wear eye protection and waterproof gloves.

* Build an exterior frame and smaller interior frame using two-by-fours and two-by-sixes assembled with metal L-brackets. This will serve as the form.

* Place the exterior frame in the desired spot, mark 6 inches around the outside of the frame and dig an 8-inch hole within the perimeter.

* Spread gravel about 4 inches deep into the hole and level before placing the interior frame within the exterior frame.

* Level the frames and secure in place using a couple of scrap two-by-fours.

* Drive metal stakes into the ground and suspend rebar horizontally using wire to attach the rebar between each to give the fire pit strength.

* Mix and pour the concrete foundation about 3 and 1/2 inches thick, making sure to fill all corners and tap with a rubber mallet to avoid air pockets. Let the concrete cure for about 24 hours.

* Use QUIKRETE Mortar to lay one row of fire bricks placed vertically on top of the concrete and against the interior frame.

* Mix and pour more concrete on top of the first level of concrete and the fire bricks. Let the concrete cure for about 24 hours.

* Remove the scrap two-by-fours holding the interior and exterior frames apart before mixing and pouring the final layer of concrete.

* Smooth the concrete by screeding with a two-by-four, floating with a wood trowel and finishing with a steel trowel.

* Cover the concrete with a sheet of plastic so it stays moist during the 48-hour time.

* Remove the exterior and interior frames with a prybar, chisel and circular saw.

* Spread several inches of lava rock in the bottom of the fire pit for additional thermal resistance.

* Let the concrete cure for 28 days before starting your first fire.

Homeowners can customize their concrete fire pit by adding one 10-ounce bottle of liquid cement color per 80-pound bag of concrete mix before pouring. For more detailed instructions on building a concrete fire pit, watch the how-to video at QUIKRETE.com.



Four ways to preserve summer tastes from your garden

9/28/2017

(BPT) - Your backyard garden was a huge success this year - you grew a ton of fresh food, which not only saved you money at the grocery store but also ensured your family ate nutritious, great-tasting fruits and vegetables with every meal. But now that the growing season is coming to a close, you might be wondering how to make the abundance of ripe produce in your fridge last.

Canning is the sensible next step for anyone who loves to garden and wants to continue enjoying the many benefits of the hobby throughout the winter months.

Simply put, canning is a method that stops the natural spoilage of food. To help you get started, the experts at Tractor Supply Company have compiled a list of pointers that will allow you to hold on to the flavor and nutritional value of your homegrown harvest.

Getting started

The initial cost for home canning is minimal and the supplies you do need, like Ball jars, lids and seasonings can be purchased at an affordable cost from Tractor Supply.

To begin water bath canning, you will need some basic equipment:

* Ball jars with lids and bands

* Large stock pot with jar rack

* Rubber-tipped tongs for gripping the jars in hot water

* Wide mouth funnel for filling jars with foods to be preserved

Tips for beginners

For your first home canning project consider starting with something simple, like a marinara sauce made from leftover tomatoes or berry jams and jellies made from strawberries, blueberries or even apples. When selecting your produce, try to pick ones that don't show signs of bruising.

One of the most common canning mistakes among beginners is not getting jars to seal properly, which is often the result of a jar that's either not clean enough or overfilled. To ensure your jar is sealed, wait at least 12 hours and then simply press your finger into the center of the screwed-on lid-a properly sealed lid will not spring up when you remove your finger. If a lid does not seal within 24 hours, the contents can either be reprocessed or refrigerated.

Water bath canning

Water bath canning is a shorter, lower-temperature canning process that works best for foods with high acidity, such as apples, berries, cherries, pears and peaches. Water bath canning works to kill the bacteria that causes food to spoil in the first place, but also creates airtight seals that prevent mold and bacteria from contaminating food down the road.

When it comes to water bath canning, the process is simple. Start by cooking then blanching the desired canning contents. This will help maintain your food's nutritional value and texture. Next, submerge your jars and lids in water and bring to a simmer. Set bands aside. Once removed from the water, use a funnel to fill the jars with the food you'd like preserved before placing the lids back on and putting the jars back into the water. Allow the jars to process in the boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove the jars and allow to completely cool for 12 to 24 hours.

Alternative methods

If you're interested in preserving your harvest but are looking for a less involved process, you may want to consider storing, freezing or drying your fruits and vegetables.

* Storing - Certain fruits and vegetables like apples, potatoes, winter squash, garlic, onions, carrots and cabbage can be stored for months in a basement or root cellar. You simply need to know the storage requirements of each. For example, root crops such as beets and carrots like cool, moist conditions and can be stored in perforated plastic bags in the basement. Potatoes like cold, moist conditions and can be stored in perforated bags in the refrigerator.

* Freezing - Freezing your produce is often the easiest method. Some vegetables, such as tomatoes, can be cut up into chunks and frozen in freezer bags. Most vegetables, though, need to be blanched before freezing. To blanch vegetables, dip them in boiling water for a few minutes and then allow them to cool.

* Drying - Individuals that live in hot, dry climates like the Southwest have the option of drying fruits and vegetables (even herbs) outdoors on drying racks. However, most home gardeners need to use an oven or a dehydrator to dry produce. Dehydrators are specially constructed to maintain the right temperature and air movement necessary for proper drying. If you don't want to invest in a dehydrator, you can use an oven. Simply set the oven temperature on low and leave the oven door ajar to allow for air movement. And remember to be patient - it may take all day to properly dry some vegetables and fruits.

Tractor Supply carries all of the supplies needed for canning, storing, freezing and drying fruits and vegetables. During the month of October, the rural lifestyle retailer will be hosting a fall Farmers Market where customers can shop crafts, produce and other local goods. To browse canning recipes, visit Tractor Supply's Pinterest page.



Preserve seasonal flavors through the joy of canning

9/21/2017

(BPT) - With summer coming to a close, there’s more of a desire than ever to hang on to those breezy afternoons and peak flavors from newly picked fruits and vegetables. Canning, a time-honored tradition, makes it simple to not only preserve our favorite garden-fresh flavors, but also share them with those we love.

Whether you’re experienced or trying it for the first time, canning offers a simple approach to preserve fresh, seasonal flavors. Those who have a home garden, are a member of a farm-share program or frequent farmers markets have found that canning is one more way to be more involved in the food they eat.

For generations, Ball(R) Fresh Preserving Products, brought to you by Newell Brands, has been helping people experience the joy of canning so that they can continue to find inspiration with the food they grow. As intimidating as it may seem, canning is as easy as simply following the steps in a recipe — if you can boil water, you can also can!

With this spirit in mind, here are four tips from canning expert Jessica Piper that’ll help you get started.

1. It’s always important to follow a tested and approved recipe when canning. You can find tested recipes on FreshPreserving.com and from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

2. When preserving, it’s always important to preserve in the jar size indicated in the recipe. You can always safely go down and process at the same time, but you cannot go up in jar size.

3. Whether you are filling the jars or allowing them to cool, be sure to always place your hot jars on a towel to avoid a rapid change in temperature.

4. When canning, make sure your canning pot is tall enough to cover the jars by 1 – 2 inches of water to ensure they seal correctly.

Corn and Cherry Tomato Salsa recipe

A simple recipe sure to become a hit with the whole family this summer is Corn and Cherry Tomato Salsa. Once you stock your pantry with it, you can even get inspired with other fun recipes to add it to, like these 3 Step Skillet Tacos, found on FreshPreserving.com.

Ingredients

5 pounds cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped; 2 cups corn kernels; 1 cup red onion, finely chopped; 2 teaspoons salt; 1/2 cup lime juice (about 3 large limes); 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced; 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder (optional); 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro; six pint-size canning jars with lids and bands

Directions

1. Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set aside with bands.

2. Bring all the ingredients to a boil in a large stainless steel or enameled saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer five to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Ladle the hot salsa into a hot jar, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe the jar rim. Center the lid on the jar. Apply the band and adjust to fingertip-tight. Place the jar in the boiling water canner. Repeat until all the jars are filled.

4. Process the jars for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Turn off heat, remove the lid, and let the jars stand 5 minutes. Remove the jars and cool.

NOTE: The use of fresh lime juice in this recipe is for the purpose of fresh flavor and has been verified as safe by scientific testing.

In the spirit of sharing, and to encourage new canners, Newell Brands(R) will donate up to $150,000 from the sale of Ball(R) Sharing Jars to Feeding America(R). One more way that canning is about tradition, community, and of course, sharing great food with others.



5 tips to keep ticks away

9/19/2017

(BPT) - Researchers are predicting 2017 will be one of the worst years for ticks that we have seen in quite some time — and by all indications, those researchers are correct. People who have found themselves pulling ticks off their pets, children and their own bodies can readily attest to this. The question is, what to do?

While the tick population may be booming and becoming an increasing problem, there are effective measures you can take to prevent them from getting on you and your loved ones.

1. Cover up. One of the easiest ways to keep ticks off of you when you're hiking in tall grass or a wooded area is to make sure you and your family wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and closed-toe shoes. You may think dressing this way during warmer months is anything but comfortable, but if you dress in lightweight, breathable clothing, you’ll be surprised at how cool you can stay.

2. Keep up with your yard. Ticks love a messy yard. They seek out tall grass, patches of weeds and unkempt gardens. Take the time to keep your lawn cut, remove any loose debris and keep the weeds out of your garden. Areas you want to be particularly concerned about are around patios, play areas and anywhere people congregate or pets explore.

3. Protect your yard. Ticks and other pests may seem like an insurmountable problem, almost impossible to avoid or get rid of. But rest easy knowing there is a solution to help protect against these blood-feeding pests. Whether you’re concerned about protecting your family’s health from tick-borne illnesses or need help controlling an infestation, contact a licensed pest control professional to come in and assess the situation. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) can help you find a qualified, local expert to identify and treat your tick problem.

4. Wear insect repellent. Just like you make it a habit to always apply sunscreen when going out on a bright, beautiful day, get in the habit of applying insect repellent any time you are out in an area that might harbor ticks. To be effective, make sure the insect repellent contains at least 20 percent DEET.

5. Perform regular inspections. At the end of the day, take the time to comb through your pet's fur and check them for ticks, even if they are wearing a tick collar. Also, don't forget to do a check on yourself and your children. Since it usually takes between 24 and 48 hours for a tick to attach to a host and transmit diseases like Lyme disease, it’s important to remove them quickly.

To learn more about ticks or other common pests, visit www.pestworld.org. There you’ll find a wealth of information and resources that will help you and your family have a safe and tick-free year.



Prevent falls this fall with a home safety checklist

9/18/2017

(BPT) - After months of sticky heat and humidity, it’s time to put away the shorts and pull out the sweaters because the autumn season is finally here. But, late September brings us more than just cooler temperatures and a wardrobe change. If you or a loved one are over the age of 65, the change in seasons is also an opportunity to think about another kind of fall — the kind that impacts one in four older Americans every year — and the steps we can all take to help prevent them.

According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and account for the majority of emergency room visits for older adults. More than 75 percent of falls happen in or around the house, but fortunately there are ways to evaluate our loved ones’ homes and make them safer for everyday living.

Use the checklist below, based on suggestions from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to help guide your review of the exterior and interior of the property. Many of the safety measures listed can be made at little to no cost, but more significant modifications could require a considerable investment.

Keep in mind, there are financial options available for seniors who want to modify their homes to meet their changing needs. Area Agencies on Aging, state and local governments, and some nonprofits offer grants, loans or other assistance programs for eligible seniors in need of home repairs and modifications.

Older homeowners may also want to consider using a reverse mortgage loan to convert a portion of their home's equity into cash proceeds that can be used for many reasons, including home modifications and maintenance. Unlike a home equity loan, a reverse mortgage requires no monthly principal or interest payments and cannot be frozen or reset.

Borrowers do not have to repay the loan balance until the last eligible spouse permanently leaves the home, or if they fail to meet their loan obligations, which include staying current on property taxes, insurance and any condominium or HOA fees.

For a comprehensive overview of reverse mortgage loans and a Borrower Roadmap to the loan process, visit http://www.reversemortgage.org/Your-Roadmap, a free consumer resource created by the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association.

Home Safety Checklist

Start on the outside:

* Make sure the driveway and any paved walkways are smooth and stable. Seal any cracks before more damage is created. Crumbling or uneven concrete surfaces should be repaired.

* Porch and deck flooring should be flat, even and nonslip. Any loose or broken floorboards should be nailed down or replaced.

* Outdoor steps should have sturdy, easily graspable handrails.

* The porch and entryway should be well-lit and light switches should be easily accessible.

* Consider whether the doorway to the home can be converted to a no-step entrance way. There are many creative ways to achieve this.

Check out the inside:

* Floors should be flat and nonslip; floorboards should be stable and carpets should be free of holes and tears that could create a tripping hazard.

* Throw rugs should be fully fastened to the floor with tacks or double-sided tape, or taken out of the house.

* All stairs and steps should be flat and even, and clutter should be removed.

* Add nonslip treads to stairs that are not carpeted.

* Stairways should have solidly mounted handrails on both sides of the steps if possible, and should be well-lit.

* If you or your loved ones face mobility challenges and stairs are an obstacle to accessing different levels of the home, consider installing a chairlift that will enable them to enjoy all the rooms in the house again.



5 strategies to embrace a green lifestyle

9/13/2017

(BPT) - Going green: It’s more than an idea — it’s a fundamental change you make to support the environment and reduce your carbon footprint. In making this change, you probably started with the small stuff. You turn the lights off when you’re not in the room, unplug devices that aren’t in use and adjust your thermostat regularly, but you can do so much more.

Implementing a green approach can seem like a lot of work. The trick is to look at your green initiatives not as a to-do list but as a new lifestyle. Once you do that, your green efforts will become habits, and you’ll forget how you went about your day without them.

To support your new green lifestyle, add these five positive habit-forming strategies from Rental HQ.

* Remove wasteful water use. The average American uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water each day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Fortunately, there are water-saving habits to embrace that will reduce your usage as well as your bill. Avoid running the dishwasher or washing machine until you have a full load. Turn the faucet off while brushing your teeth, and take a shower instead of a bath. Outside, you should avoid watering your lawn as much as possible and if you do, try to do so in the evening when the water can soak into the soil instead of evaporating in the afternoon heat.

* Rent instead of buy. Whether you’re sprucing up your yard or diving into a home improvement project, there are always machines and tools that you need but simply don’t have. Too often that means buying these items, using them once and then stashing them in the garage or basement. Renting helps reduce the energy, pollution and waste that goes into making, storing and maintaining machines and tools. Renting is an easy and cost-effective way to locate just the right equipment — think aerators, chain saws, pressure washers and paint sprayers — while helping the environment.

* Start the carpool. You and your co-workers have talked about this for years, but nothing ever comes of it because no one wants to take the initiative. Now’s the time. Announce that you are starting a carpool — volunteer to drive the first week — and invite your friends to join you. This habit is more likely to stick if you all consistently rely on each other.

* Adopt green, chemical-free lawn care practices. Everyone wants a lush, green lawn, and too many people use chemicals, fertilizers and unhealthy products to achieve their dream. Resolve to eliminate lawn care habits that harm Mother Nature, such as chemical dethatchers, fertilizers and weed killers. Instead, rent a dethatching machine and aerator to improve your lawn's health naturally. You can even rent a chipper or grinder to turn yard debris like twigs, branches, fallen leaves and grass clippings into mulch for planting beds.

* Make your own cleaning chemicals. Cleaning chemicals are a staple in every home; they’re also rarely environmentally friendly. However, you can get the same cleaning benefits without the negative environmental impact by making your own cleaning chemicals from natural sources. Mineral oil and lemon juice combine to make a great furniture polish, just as vinegar and salt can be used to clean copper or brass. For an all-purpose cleaning solution, try liquid soap, baking soda and tap water. Recipes for these solutions and more are found easily online, so browse around and you’ll discover the perfect natural solution for your needs.

A green lifestyle doesn't happen overnight. Adding a few of these green habits will help. Apply the tips offered above and your new green lifestyle will be effective and enjoyable before you know it.



Bringing sustainability home is as easy as ABC

9/13/2017

(BPT) - With 67 percent of consumers from across the globe preferring products from sustainable sources, according to a recent Nielsen survey, creating a more sustainable home is the new normal. From buying down and feather products to repairing leaky pipes, making your home more sustainable is as easy as the ABCs. Here are three small ways you can make a big difference (and spare your wallet) when it comes to the sustainability of our world:

A is for AUDIT

Do a home energy audit by checking your windows and doors for air leakage, and by checking your pipes — faucets, toilet flappers and valves — for any leaks.

Air leakage from windows and doors can impact your home’s energy use. The United States Department of Energy claims sealing uncontrolled air leaks will save you 10 to 20 percent on your heating and cooling bills. Check your home for drafty windows and doors and discuss leak prevention options, such as weather strips and caulk, with your local hardware store.

Fixing leaky pipes can prevent gallons of water from being lost every day. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency states that tightening pipes and repairing leaks can prevent the average household from leaking 10,000 gallons of water per year. These types of leaks are often easy to fix, which can save homeowners about 10 percent on their water bills.

B is for BEDDING

Changing your bedding to down and feather can help reduce your heating bill. Down and feather pillows, comforters, duvets and mattress toppers provide superior warmth, which in turn lets you lower the thermostat. You can save as much as 10 percent on your heating bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, by lowering the thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees while you sleep.

Better yet, down and feathers are a natural byproduct of the food industry. So recycling them into warm comforters means the down and feathers do not end up in our global landfills. Since down and feathers are a natural fill material, they have a lower carbon footprint than products made from synthetic fill materials. They are biodegradable and can be composted along with your food scraps or yard trimmings. Not to mention down and feather products are long-lasting with a lightweight feel, so you don’t have to replace them as often. For more information about the sustainable benefits of down and feather products, visit the American Down and Feather Council website at www.DownandFeatherCouncil.com.

C is for COMPOST

Composting is the practice of recycling decomposed organic material waste with manure to turn it into rich soil. By composting in your own backyard, nutrients are restored into the ground and less waste ends up in landfills, waterways and water treatment facilities. What’s more: landfills cause organic waste to generate greenhouse gasses, so methane emissions are greatly reduced when waste is composted. This practice can also help you save money, since it allows you to purchase fewer soil conditioners and bagged manures for your property. By using down and feather, a byproduct of the food industry, along with creating your own compost by using vegetable scraps, you can make composting a core part of your lifestyle.

These simple steps make it easy to reduce the carbon footprint of your home, and contribute to the overall sustainability of our Earth. By following the ABCs and making these small changes in your everyday life, not only will you be doing something good for our planet, you’ll be helping out your wallet as well!



Garage doors: More visual impact than your front door

9/12/2017

(BPT) - If you’re buying a garage door, you’ll be faced with several decisions that you likely never had to make before. Before you call your local garage door dealer, here are some of the decisions that you need to face.

The design decision

Remember the adage that the front door is the most important design element in the home? Not anymore.

In most homes today, the visual impact of the garage door is many times greater than that of the front door. Studies have shown that your garage door design can affect the appraisal value of your home.

Today, manufacturers offer hundreds of new, stunning looks. Design experts recommend that you choose a door design that complements your home's overall appearance. To do that, match the door with your home’s exterior colors, textures and patterns.

To help you with your design decision, the garage door industry has created the free consumer site www.garagewownow.com, which contains dozens of photos of the latest garage doors from many manufacturers. Plus, most manufacturer websites feature a “door designer” that lets you see how designs will look on an uploaded photo of your own garage.

New opener decisions

The garage door and opener are two separate items, but they are often purchased together. And today’s openers offer many more features and accessories than ever before. You can choose:

AC vs. DC: Openers with DC (direct current) motors, which were rare 10 years ago, are now widely available. DC and AC motors are durable and reliable, but DC motors are quieter, and they allow the door to soft-start and soft-stop, instead of clanging to an abrupt stop.

Accessories: Did you know you can now operate and monitor your garage door from your smartphone? You can also get a battery backup unit, a real lifesaver in a power outage. When you consider motion detection, music speakers, mini transmitters, automatic deadbolt locks, LED lighting, external keypads and more, you’ll realize how far openers have come.

New thinking on insulation

“The garage acts as a ‘buffer zone,’ much like the vestibule to a restaurant or a grocery store,” says Joe Hetzel, P.E., technical director for the garage door manufacturers’ association. “An insulated garage door makes it easier to control the heating and cooling costs for the home.”

This new “buffer zone” thinking considers garage door insulation a must. Fortunately, insulation typically pays for itself. Dow Chemical recently reported that, for every $100 you invest in an insulation project, you generally get a return of $117 in recouped energy costs.

“Once you get an insulated door, you never go back to uninsulated,” says Ed Hermanns, a door dealer in New Jersey and president of the International Door Association. “Most of our customers today buy an insulated door, and that number seems to increase every year.”

You might be buying a new garage door out of necessity, but it’s a smart purchase. An upscale garage door replacement delivers the highest return on investment for all upscale remodeling projects in the new 2017 Cost vs. Value Report from Remodeling Magazine.

So, while you have a few decisions yet to make, you’ve already made the good choice to get a new garage door. After you add the latest designs and technology, you can admire your choices every time you pull in the driveway.



Inspirational tips for autumn outdoor entertaining

9/6/2017

(BPT) - The days are shorter, the temperatures are cooler and kids are back in school. You've said goodbye to summer socials, but that doesn't mean it's time to put away your apron and stow the patio furniture. Autumn is one of the best times of the year for outdoor entertaining, and with a few smart tips you'll fall in love with hosting fall gatherings.

Extend the fun feeling of summer entertaining into the autumn months by taking a few simple steps to create a memorable experience.

Switch up dishes: The cool dishes of summer should be swapped with savory recipes that feature hearty ingredients. A roast or slow-cooker meal is the perfect option. Visit the farmers market and feature local fresh harvest foods. In addition to standard drinks like water and soda, offer a signature warm beverage, such as spicy hot apple cider.

Enjoy the night: Autumn evenings are spectacular, with cool temperatures and star-studded skies. Serve dinner al fresco and then ask guests to stay to gather around the bonfire to roast marshmallows and make s'mores. Add an element of entertainment and guests will enjoy themselves all night.

Make movie magic: To really wow guests, host an outdoor movie experience day or night. The LG ProBeam smart TV laser projector has an HD picture of up to 120 inches with impressive visibility, sharp contrast and rich blacks, even when there is abundant ambient light. Plus, with the award-winning webOS Smart TV platform, you can stream your favorite services just like on a smart TV, creating a seamless viewing (and hosting) experience.

Set up superior sound: Whether you're setting the mood with some music or enhancing the movie-viewing experience, a high-quality speaker makes entertaining easy. The LG LOUDR FH6 is a 600W Bluetooth speaker system that can fill your room (or backyard) with booming audio. Plus, with the Karaoke Creator feature, you can suppress the vocal frequencies of any song to turn it into a karaoke track, which is sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike.

Mind the weather: Fall weather can change drastically throughout a day. Encourage guests to dress in layers so that attire for daylight fun can transition into warmer wear for evening hours. What's more, keep a couple extra jackets on hand just in case people forget and need a light coat.

Create a cozy atmosphere: Whether you're watching a movie, star gazing or sitting around the bonfire, help guests stay warm by setting out a variety of throw blankets and outdoor pillows. Nothing encourages guests to cozy up and stay longer than a big blanket, a fun flick and a mug of something warm.

Light the night: Cloudy days or early evening hours don't have to ruin your good time. Add a soft glow and an element of safety by adding string lights to railings and pathways. For kids attending the party, bracelet and necklace glow lights are always a big hit. For bonfire and movie spaces, add a basket of flashlights guests can use as needed.

Perfect parting gifts: If you decide to offer favors when guests depart, embrace the fall feeling and consider goodies they can savor later while reminiscing about your party. Mini apple or pumpkin pies are cute and creative. Caramel apples are a tasty autumn delight. A container featuring a variety of tea will keep them warm all season long.

Once you try autumn entertaining it might become your favorite time of year to host friends and family. With these tips, everyone is guaranteed to have a splendid time.



5 safety essentials for working outside

8/22/2017

(BPT) - Remember when you were a kid and biked around the neighborhood without a helmet? Or how excited you were to sit in the front seat when your mom or dad picked you up from kindergarten?

These days, it can be shocking to think about how lax people once were when it comes to certain safety issues.

Nonetheless, statistics suggest that injuries related to power tools are on the rise, and no matter how sure of yourself you might be, accidents happen to the best of us. One area where many people tend to put safety on the back burner is in yard work. Though the potential for serious injuries is everywhere when using a power tool, people can often be too relaxed in this area.

These five precautions are simple ways to prevent serious accidents when using power tools around the yard.

1. Ear plugs. If you go to a concert these days, you'll probably see people with foam plugs sticking out of their ears. If lovers of music and noise are taking steps to protect their ears, shouldn't you be doing the same when using power tools? Snug, comfortable ear protection goes a long way in preventing permanent hearing loss. Any time you rev up an engine in your yard, your ears should be covered!

2. Wear protective clothing. Homeowners who regularly use outdoor power tools, especially chainsaws, need specialized clothing like chainsaw chaps, pants and jackets that can prevent injuries. Especially suited for occasional chainsaw users, Husqvarna’s personal protective equipment is a line of highly movable, durable and affordable protective wear that can stop a chain and mitigate serious injuries.

3. Foot protection. The perfect weather to go out and do some yard work is also the perfect weather for flip flops and sandals. However, the two do not go together. In fact, wearing any kind of closed-toe shoe isn’t enough. You need to protect your feet with specialized footwear that maximizes stability and keeps you comfortable all day long.

4. Proper gloves. Too often people use power tools to do yard work and don’t put on any gloves. This relaxed attitude can be dangerous. A good pair of work gloves not only prevents blisters, but protects against more serious injuries. This is one piece of equipment that is essential to keeping you both comfortable and safe while you work.

5. Eye protection. Though your eyes are incredibly vulnerable, it’s easy to go out to trim the hedges or take down a few overhanging branches and think you don’t need eye protection. All it takes is one stray wood chip or flying piece of debris to injure an eye and cause permanent vision loss.

Essential items for eye protection and hearing protection, as well as other accessories such as suspenders, rubber boot liners, boot studs, harnesses and braces can be purchased together in the Husqvarna’s Protective Powerkit. This is an easy way to have the essential safety equipment available for you to do the work you love and stay safe while doing it.



3 things you'll need to throw the ultimate tailgating party

8/21/2017

(BPT) - Football season is finally upon us and fans everywhere are getting revved up to cheer on their favorite team. Whether you watch the big game from the comfort of your home or head down to the stadium, it’s the perfect time to throw the mother of all football celebrations — a really big tailgating party.

Tailgating is a chance to enjoy (or brave) the fall weather and bond with friends over the anticipation of football. At its peak, stadium tailgating can turn into a free-flowing block party that anyone can crash.

Whether at home on the deck or camped out at the stadium, an unforgettable day of tailgating starts with a good plan and the right mindset. Whatever you do, be sure and roll out the welcome mat and tackle the tailgating experience head on, creating the ultimate football party zone.

1. Up your grill game

You can’t tailgate without great food and mountains of meat. That means this is a good time to evaluate your outdoor cooking gear.

Consider adding a second grill, and you'll have plenty of extra cooking space to feed the crowd. One great addition to your lineup is the Black 3-Burner Liquid Propane Gas Grill by Char-Broil, available at Lowe’s. It’s easy to start so you’ll have those extra burgers, steaks or chicken wings sizzling right away.

Explore other additions to your grilling kit to help you fix up a memorable feast. Invest in that smoker you always wanted so you can perfect your brisket recipe and make your tailgate party an instant fan favorite. Nowadays, portable grills come with larger cooking spaces, so you can keep those bellies filled while making the trip to the stadium much easier.

2. Make room for the crowd

Wherever you tailgate, meeting new people is part of the fun and tradition, so be prepared for extras. Take a look at your seating situation and add folding chairs so you'll always have space for special guests. When people are enjoying the spread of snacks, appetizers and sides, extra tables will keep the buffet well-organized with plenty of elbow room. Finally, preparation will keep everyone comfortable through that unpredictable fall weather. A spacious pop-up canopy or two with your team’s colors and logo can keep the party going and those spirits up whether the day brings intense sun or a chilly fall drizzle.

3. Get everyone off their feet

Tailgating is not just hanging out for a couple hours in a parking lot; it can last an entire day. Break up the lull and get everyone on their feet with some yard games. You could always purchase some game sets, but with a little effort and the help of some power tools, you can build your own.

Building a few sets of cornhole boards and ring toss games is easier than you think. Or you can keep it casual with homemade diced darts made with giant foam dice. A high-stakes giant-sized balancing block tower game is a sure way to amp up the excitement. In any case, a bit of friendly competition creates the perfect ice breaker for any gathering.

Lowe’s is the place where you can find everything you need to create the ultimate tailgating experience that will please any fan. Find more creative tailgating ideas at lowes.com.



5 fabulous deck fix-ups

8/17/2017

(BPT) - Are you tired of having a deck you’re no longer proud to show off? You’re not alone. According to the 2017 U.S. Houzz Landscape Trends Study, one of the top reasons motivating homeowners to tackle outdoor projects like deck upgrades is their open-air space is past its prime.

If you’re like surveyed respondents and ready to return your fixer-upper to its former glory, the process may seem daunting. Fortunately, a little inspiration is all you need to transform your deck into a backyard beauty. With these fabulous fix-ups, your deck will be re-energized in no time.

1. Refresh your color palette

One of the easiest ways to transform a ho-hum deck into a stylish oasis is an updated color palette. Refreshing the look of outdoor accessories and furnishings is a simple and cost-effective solution. MidwestLiving.com says, “Focusing on one or two colors adds a unifying feel to your décor. Punchy blue and green furnishings brighten the deck while not distracting from the view.” You can even swap out fabrics, accent pillows and cushions as the seasons change to keep your outdoor room looking fresh all year long.

If you’re increasing the size of your deck, consider choosing decking in a color that complements your home. It will help ease the visual transition from indoors to out and create a beautiful base for planters and deck furnishings. If you are looking to make a statement, consider varying the color of deck boards, inserting feature strips or using contrasting railings to frame your outdoor room.

2. Landscape your deck-escape

To create a deck-escape that draws guests in, integrate landscaping into your design. Start small by lining your deck with planters, curving flowerbeds and grasses. A punchy mix of seasonal annuals and perennials will help encourage visitors to explore your outdoor living space. Or, go a step further and use today’s versatile, moisture-resistant composite decking products to turn your deck into an extension of your garden. With proper installation, the boards can easily curve around trees or flower beds to blend your deck into its natural surroundings.

3. Provide pretty privacy

There’s no reason to give up style and comfort on your deck just because you want privacy, especially if your neighbors are within close quarters. Trellises, lattices and vertical gardens can screen an exposed view and freshen up your outdoor room. Nature can also act as a beautiful barrier. Slender evergreens like arborvitae can establish a relaxed sense of privacy and create a soft, lush backdrop. You can even add different shade-providing trees near your deck, creating a secluded space with a more intimate feel.

4. Build a beautiful addition

If your outdoor room is limiting the number of guests you can entertain, a new deck addition may be just the right fix. You’ll gain extra square feet and valuable space for themed outdoor areas. Try bumping your deck out on one side to make a basic square deck more interesting and gain room for an al fresco dining area or a spa-themed deck nook with a hot tub. With the right decking materials, you can even add a meandering garden path deck or curved getaway encircling a water feature.

“Composite decking with a plastic and wood blend throughout the board like ChoiceDek can be ripped, routed and bent to fit nearly any deck design,” says Randy Gottlieb, president of A.E.R.T. “The boards are easier to curve than capped composites and traditional wood planks. They give homeowners a lot more design flexibility at an affordable price point.”

5. Create on-deck destinations

To give your outdoor room a lasting edge, create on-deck destination areas that go beyond eating and socializing. Love gardening? Build a vertical garden or use extra deck boards to create planter boxes that allow you to pass on your “green thumb” to your children. If you’re a DIYer, use complementary decking to create a corn hole set for birthday parties and gatherings. With a spark of inspiration, the possibilities for reinventing your outdoor space are virtually endless.



Practical meets pretty: Fresh herbs at your fingertips, even in autumn

8/16/2017

(BPT) - The end of summer doesn’t have to mean the end of your gardening enjoyment, even if you don’t have the time or climate for a full plot of food plants. Herbs are perfect fall crops; they are prolific growers, can satisfy your desire for fresh, garden-grown greens and are one of the easiest ways to elevate your recipes from so-so to so good! Plus, they’re ready to harvest and growing your own will make a dent in your grocery bill.

The fall gardening experts at Bonnie Plants offer some gardening guidance for planting herbs this fall:

Getting started

Multiple factors will influence your choice of herbs, including fall temperatures, where you live, and your taste in seasonings.

If you decide to plant outdoors, it’s important to know when to expect the first hard frost. You can find the estimated first frost date in your area by checking out Bonnie’s online frost map.

You’ll want to choose herbs that like cooler weather, such as parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, mint, chives, lavender and oregano. They’re all prolific producers and some, like mint and rosemary, are especially easy to grow. Availability of Bonnie’s fall varieties is limited to specific regions, so check your local garden retailers.

Pick a place

You may envision pots full of leafy, green herbs sitting on a sunny windowsill, while colorful autumn leaves, or even snow, fall outside. However, windowsills aren’t always a best bet for indoor herbs, especially if your windows are drafty or the herbs brush the cold glass.

Herbs need at least four to six hours of natural light per day to grow indoors, so choose a sunny spot near a window where they’ll be protected from drafts and cold. South- and southwest-facing windows will give you the most natural light throughout the day. Windows facing north won’t provide enough sunlight.

Picking the right pots

If you really love rosemary, you may be tempted to try to plant the largest pot appropriate for your kitchen, but stick with manageable-sized pots that will fit better indoors, allow you to keep your herbs more organized, and still produce plenty of yield. Be sure to choose pots that have good drainage and always use a premium potting mix.

Caring for container herbs

Any type of plant growing in a pot needs water, and herbs are no exception. You’ll need to keep a close eye on your herb plants’ watering needs. Remember, dry topsoil is not an indication plants need water. A quick and easy test is to stick your finger, or a pencil, into the soil right where the stem enters the soil. If the soil is moist at 1.5 to 2 inches deep, do not water. If dry, it’s time to water! Always water in the morning, at soil level and avoid watering the leaves, as bacteria can breed in cool, wet, damp and dark conditions, like night time.

Fertilize your food plants. Water is an obvious must, but irrigation can wash nutrients out of the soil. Plus, some potting mixes only have a short-term supply of fertilizer while others are slow-release. Read the label on your premium potting soil mix and follow the brand’s recommendations for fertilizing frequency. Timed-release granular fertilizer or a plant food you mix with water will help keep herbs nourished. Remember food plants are hungry!

Best bets on basil

Although basil is the most popular herb, it can sometimes struggle growing indoors. Start off growing it outdoors on a sunny deck. Be sure to continually pinch-off the prolific leaf growth, which encourages more growth and harvest, until the weather turns cool, then bring the pot indoors. Harvested leaves can be continually dried, although freezing does a better job of preserving the herb’s flavor. Tip: Try using old ice-cube trays, inserting basil leaves in cells, filling with water and freezing. When weather gets cold, you can easily pop your “basil ice-cubes” in recipes throughout the cold weather season. Basil is also tasty in some drinks, like lemonade and tea.

While clipping sprigs when cooking is a great way to harness the freshness of any herb, you can also store them and they’ll maintain their flavor. Preserving by drying and freezing aren’t your only options; try adding herbs as seasoning to cooking oils.

Whether you’re an expert gardener or a first-time fall grower, autumn is the perfect time to fall in love with the freshness, flavor and ease of herb gardening. You’ve still got time to get growing!



Enjoy the latest trend in swimming pools

8/14/2017

(BPT) - It was supposed to be a community swimming pool, but many people stayed away because they couldn't tolerate the biting, nose-curdling odor of chlorine. Others experienced breathing and skin problems.

So the Evergreen Commons senior center in Holland, Michigan, converted its 65,000-gallon chlorine pool into a saltwater pool. People who had stayed away are now coming back, getting exercise and therapy, while socializing with others.

The senior center is hardly alone. Across the country, traditional chlorine pools are being converted into saltwater pools, sometimes called saline pools.

Swimmers noticed the difference right away after the switch, making their pool experience much more enjoyable. The new system also meant softer water without harsh chemicals that sometimes required a shower to wash off.

Homeowners and pool managers have many motivations for converting pools from chlorine to salt, including:

* Simplified, more convenient maintenance. Saltwater pool owners don't have to buy, transport, store and handle hazardous chlorine chemicals. This saves time and money.

* Water that's gentle on skin, eyes, nose and hair. Saltwater pools have approximately one-tenth the salinity of ocean water and about one-third the salinity of human tears, with no unpleasant chlorine smell.

* A more environmentally friendly approach. Routine pool maintenance doesn't involve the handling and storage of manufactured chlorine and lessens the need for other potentially hazardous chemicals.

How do they work?

Saltwater pools use a generator to convert the salt into mild chlorine that keeps the pool free of harmful bacteria. This chlorine is added to the water at a constant rate, displacing the bad smell and burning irritation we normally associate with chlorine and maintaining the right amount. Once the chlorine sanitizes the pool it converts back to salt. The process continues, over and over again, conserving the salt and keeping sanitizer levels balanced.

The technology for a saltwater pool was first developed in Australia in the 1960s and today more than 80 percent of all pools Down Under use this system. In the United States, saltwater pools first began to see use in the 1980s and have grown exponentially in popularity. According to data published in Pool & Spa News, today there are more than 1.4 million saltwater pools in operation nationwide and an estimated 75 percent of all new in-ground pools are saltwater, compared with only 15 percent in 2002.

The other good news for homeowners and pool managers is that pool salt is far cheaper than traditional chlorine. This is a big reason why so many hotels and water parks in the United States have already made the switch. The initial construction and installation of an electrolytic converter is very small and easily made up in maintenance savings. Even converting an existing chlorine pool to saltwater pool can pay off quickly.



5 ways to stop mosquitoes from bugging you this season

8/11/2017

(BPT) - Ask people what they love about the warm weather months and you’ll get a variety of answers. They love the sun, the warmth, camping, picnicking, boating and just being outside with family and friends. However, if you ask them what they like least about being outdoors during the warm weather months, the answer is simple — mosquitoes.

Everyone is familiar with the buzzing of a mosquito by their ear or the itchy sensation that accompanies a mosquito bite. However, concern regarding mosquitoes has grown in recent years as these insects are capable of transmitting potentially serious diseases to humans, including the West Nile virus and Zika virus.

Follow these tips from the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) to reduce biting mosquitoes around your property:

* Ditch that standing water. A small puddle of water or a child’s toy filled with rainwater may seem insignificant to you, but it is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Eliminate stagnant water areas — including emptying the water out of clogged gutters, flower pots, bird baths and children's pools — and you deny mosquitoes a place to lay their eggs. Don't ignore even the smallest water collection as mosquitoes can breed in as little as a 1/2 inch of water — that’s about the size of a bottle cap.

* Protect the indoors. Adding screens to your windows and doors allows you to welcome warm, fresh air into your home without letting mosquitoes in as well. Carefully inspect existing screens and repair any holes using a patch kit.

* Minimize outdoor activity at peak times. Mosquito species are most active at dawn and dusk, so try to remain indoors during these periods. Plan indoor activities for these times and save your outdoor fun for time periods when mosquitoes are less active. However, the Aedes species responsible for transmitting the Zika virus is a daytime biter, so protective measures should be taken when spending time outdoors as well.

* Double your protection. When you are outside, double your protection by wearing long clothing and properly applying insect repellent. Long clothing that is loose fitting will make it harder for mosquitoes to bite. Also, use a repellent that contains at least 20 percent of either DEET, picaridin or IR3535, or at least 30 percent lemon eucalyptus oil. Apply over top of sunscreen and according to the product label.

* Contact the experts. If you’ve tried all of the tips above and your mosquito problem is still a concern, it may be time to hire a professional. A pest control expert can help you rid your property of mosquitoes and pinpoint those hidden breeding grounds. Visit pestworld.org today to find a pest control professional in your area and to find more tips on how you can prevent pest problems in and around your home.



Give your outdoor space the home field advantage

8/9/2017

(BPT) - On a beautiful, sunny day, you simply have to be outside. But when you step outdoors, where do you go? To the park? The lake? A friend's home?

How often do you stay home and enjoy the beauty of your own outdoor space?

If your answer is not often or never, it’s time to create your own home field advantage. With just a few simple improvements, you can make even the smallest outdoor space feel comfortable and welcoming to you and your guests. Start with these five projects and you’ll make your own yard the place to be when the weather turns beautiful.

* Replace the cement with a raised deck. That old cement patio or walkway in your backyard may be unsightly and uninviting, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can make that space much more appealing by replacing it with a raised cedar deck. Easy to build and affordable as well, a raised cedar deck makes the entire area more inviting without taking up any additional space. Cedar is also naturally resistant to rot, decay and insects, and it is cool underfoot.

* Light smart. Your current outdoor space may have only a single light or it may have no light at all, making it impossible to use at night. To make the space more welcoming, add string lights or uplighting to your outdoor area. These lights are available in a wide array of styles to match your personality and they take up very little space, allowing you to create the perfect — well lit — environment you’re looking for.

* Focus on furniture. If finding the right furniture to fit your space has been difficult, consider making your own instead. Building a customized bench or sectional is easier than you think and it allows you to build your furniture to meet the design requirements of your space. Western Red Cedar is pitch and resin free so it accepts and holds a wide range of finishes to match your style choice. You can even add built-in storage to your bench or furniture design for more space-saving solutions. Visit www.realcedar.com for building plans.

* Place a plant or two. The right plant could provide just the pop of color your outdoor space needs. Herb gardens, hostas, even a pot of flowers all up the scenic appeal of your outdoor area. If space is a concern and you have a pergola structure, hanging plant baskets is a great option, so you can enjoy their beauty from above.

* Play a zone strategy. When space is at a premium, you need to utilize every inch. To do this, segment your outdoor space into defined zones such as cooking, relaxing and eating areas. You can then further define these zones by adding the perfect finishing touches to each like a barbecue enclosure for your cooking area and a pergola over your dining table. Each of these DIY projects is a worthy addition to your outdoor space and will make it the area you can't wait to enjoy every time you step outside.



Forward-thinking yard projects to tackle as the weather cools off this fall

8/8/2017

(BPT) - The temperature may not have dropped just yet, but make no mistake, fall is coming. Soon enough, baseball will give way to football, green leaves will turn yellow and red and your lawn care routine will take on a whole new set of tasks. Fall lawn care isn’t the long marathon of the summer yard season, but it packs plenty of work into a few short months before the winter. You can make this lawn care blitz a little bit easier by applying the following tips.

* Stimulate your lawn. While your grass may no longer need its weekly mowing in the fall, you can’t ignore it until spring. Look for brown, tan or white patches on your lawn, as this can be a sign of mold growth. Apply a lawn fungicide to halt this growth and an organic fertilizer to stop its spread and support future root growth.

* Blow those leaves away. Raking leaves can be a Herculean task, so simplify the process by investing in a lithium-ion blower. The Greenworks 60-volt Backpack Blower is a heavy-duty solution perfect for homeowners with a quarter to three-quarters of an acre to cover. And for yard-lovers that prefer a handheld blower, Greenworks has you covered there too! Both solutions are lightweight and reduce noise while eliminating emissions, and because they're battery powered, you don’t have to bother with mixing gas and oil.

* Seed and sod. If you do notice patches of dead grass in your yard — a common occurrence if fallen leaves have not been blown away — don’t wait until spring to address the issue. Over-seeding the area can rectify the problem if the spaces are small. If your lawn has significant portions that have died, it may be time to look into sodding options instead for more comprehensive coverage.

* A fresh spray clean. A season’s worth of wind and rain can leave the sides of your home looking pretty dingy. Fall cleanup is the perfect time to give your home a reset by spraying down your siding, decks, and patios. Greenworks 2200 PSI Electric Pressure Washer is an environmentally friendly gas-alternative solution with five nozzles that allow you to adjust the tool’s water pressure based on the task at hand. The pressure washer is also designed with Smart Response Technology to adjust motor RPMs as nozzles are changed, ensuring the perfect water flow for every job — and the on board LED display guides you to the best job for each nozzle, letting you clean your home in a smart, efficient way.

* A hole in the ground supports future growth. Fall is arguably the best time of year to aerate your yard, allowing water, oxygen and fertilizer to more easily reach the root structure of your grass. Self-propelled aerators are relatively inexpensive, and you can also rent one if you plan to make this a once-a-year chore. Whatever you decide, tackling this chore now will allow your lawn to grow back thicker and fuller next year when it will be time to start thinking about spring lawn care once again.



Turn your basic backyard into an outdoor oasis

7/28/2017

(BPT) - Summer’s in full swing, but are you truly making the most of it? Creating a vibrant outdoor space can expand the living area of your home, while providing a unique venue for entertaining or relaxation, allowing you to enjoy every free moment to the fullest.

From the ultimate sports bar to a zen paradise, the outdoor design possibilities are endless and can be customized to meet your priorities, be it entertaining friends and family or creating the perfect tranquil retreat. As a leader in home comfort for nearly 40 years, Napoleon has extensive expertise in designing products and environments that help create memorable moments that last a lifetime. The company recently enlisted a third-party research firm to help examine the connection people have to different areas of their home and outdoor spaces, and how the design of those spaces can have a direct impact on emotions.

“The research shows the most-loved areas of the home combine relaxation, socialization and functionality,” said Stephen Schroeter, Napoleon’s senior vice president of sales and marketing. “Outdoor spaces provide a great opportunity to accommodate all three, yet they are still vastly underutilized by most homeowners.”

Following are Schroeter’s top tips for creating the outdoor oasis of your dreams:

1. Add an outdoor kitchen — Outdoor kitchens are growing in popularity, and for good reason. Not only do they meet a basic need, but they do so in a fun, engaging atmosphere. No one wants to be stuck inside preparing a meal when the party is out under the sun — or stars. The showpiece of every great outdoor kitchen is a quality, professional grill, which can be freestanding, or built-in to save on space. Napoleon’s Prestige PRO Series grills are packed with features for professional-level grilling right in your own backyard. Innovative products like the OASIS Outdoor Kitchen allow you to personalize your outdoor area with a cooking and storage solution that fits your space and your budget. Other culinary considerations include outdoor refrigerators or beer dispensers to keep beverages cold and flowing freely, pizza ovens and sinks for easy clean-up.

2. Establish a gathering place — One of the most important features of an outdoor space are areas for socialization. A central location with a variety of seating options creates a welcoming atmosphere. Adding the element of fire to a space sparks emotion, provides a focal point, and enables the space to be used later into the season. Consider a built-in fireplace or a fire pit that can be moved to different locations depending on your needs.

3. Create privacy, divided zones — Escape the hustle and bustle while making your space feel more intimate with the use of barriers like large plants or trees, a pergola, or privacy panels. Designing distinct spaces with divided zones helps create the feel of a secluded getaway and gives each area purpose.

4. Design for all the senses — Our favorite spaces are those that delight all the senses. In addition to designing a comfortable, beautiful space, consider adding outdoor speakers for music that sets the mood, or a water feature that eliminates street noise. Relax and enjoy the delicious smell of grilling or the experience of roasting marshmallows over an open flame. Consider adding fragrant bushes to fill the night with a sweet scent. Get creative.

5. Add accents — Small touches can go a long way. Personalize your space with items that define your style and personality or focus on a fun theme. Don’t be afraid to add bold pops of color — your outdoor living area is a great place to explore a more adventurous design than you might consider inside your home.

It’s never too late to transform your backyard into a welcoming oasis. For more outdoor design ideas, visit http://napoleonfireplaces.com/inspiration/outdoor-spaces.