Gardening For Beginners: Tips & Tricks For Novices

Are you a new homeowner, or a novice gardener, looking to change up your yard as the growing season gets underway?  Good for you!  And here are a few tips and things to remember to help you get started.

For starters, keep in mind that yards and gardens are like kids… they need frequent tending and supervision.  They are a commitment, not something you can get going and then leave to their own devices.

Begin by cleaning up the winter debris—removing leaves, pine needles and trimming away dead branches and bushes—from your property.  Now you’ll have a cleaner canvas from which to develop a plan.

Will you want to install a sprinkler system, or can you manage all of your watering needs via hose and the outdoor faucets?  Depending on the amount of sun your yard receives, as well as the amount of rainfall you might get, you could be watering as often as every couple of days or as infrequently as once every ten days or less.  But bottom line, it’s going to need water from one source or another.

Start Small

If this is your first year tending to a garden, ease yourself in slowly.  Whether you’re planting flowers or vegetables or a combination of both, vigilance is required.

Weeds somehow have a tendency to grow twice as fast as your plants.  Not only can a garden go from looking beautiful to looking ragged in a matter of days, the undesirable plants will begin to choke out the desirable ones.

Make a trip to your local garden center or nursery before you plant or even till the ground.  It’s well worth the time to consult with an expert who can advise you as to what plans will thrive in your area, as well as the type of soil you may have on your property, and what fertilizers and plant foods work best.

Don’t spend your money on things that look nice in magazine photos or in yards you’ve seen where the growing conditions might be very different than yours.  Learn the optimum time for planting, and which things can—and should—be started earlier in indoor pots in order to have a head start when you transplant them.

After you’ve spent a full season caring for a smaller section of yard or garden and you have a better understanding of the time and commitment level it will require to keep things looking beautiful, you can decide if you’d like to undertake a larger area next year.  You’ll find this is a better way to ease yourself into yard work and gardening, rather than becoming overwhelmed, stressed and frustrated by having bitten off more than you can chew.

And of course, the capable craftsmen at Handyman Matters are available to help with any and all aspects of giving your yard and garden the appearance you would like it to have—anything from tilling the ground, to putting up a fence, to pouring concrete for a new patio, and all tasks in between.  Call 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME to talk to the Handyman Matters location nearest you!

Planning Your Spring Gardening And Landscaping

It’s that time of year when cabin fever sets in, and we’re impatiently waiting the arrival of spring.  We start making plans for our yard and garden in anticipation of the warmer months. We consult home and garden magazines, watch HGTV programs, and just generally daydream about how spectacular our flowerbeds and walkways are going to look this season.

The tendency is to dream big or unrealistically when we see what other people have achieved.  It’s fine to go all out if that’s what you want, but you should be armed with all the best information before you start spending time and money on the plants and trees you thought looked prettiest in somebody else’s yard.

Here are questions to ask yourself before you actually start turning up the soil on your property.

How much time am I actually going to be able to devote to maintaining my garden once it’s in place?  Will weeds get out of hand, or plants wither, because I don’t have the time to keep up with the yard work?

Am I looking at plants native to where I live? How big will they grow?  How much rainfall can I expect, and what are the temperature ranges in my area?  What kind of plants can my soil support?

Perhaps the single most important determination to make is the primary function you desire from your yard.  Do you have kids who will be playing there a lot?  Do you like to barbecue or host a lot of events?  Do you view your yard as your “quiet space,” a spot for reading, reflection, or perhaps bird watching?  The answers to these will shape the kind of yard that works best for you.

Additional things to take into consideration before breaking ground or making any big purchases is to determine how much sunlight and/or wind your proposed garden area will receive.  Ditto for placing a new patio or barbecue pit.  If your proposed area for a patio will have your guests sitting in shade in late September, or in direct sun in mid July, it might be good to re-think those plans.

A good landscaper can help you make those kinds of decisions, and a friendly employee at your local nursery or home improvement store can guide you to informed choices for the plants that will thrive in your garden’s soil and surroundings.  And, of course, the qualified craftsmen at your local Handyman Matters office are happy to help you construct the deck, patio and yard of your dreams.  Call 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code at www.handymanmatters.com to find the location nearest you.

Fall is Coming – Is your Home Ready? (Your Essential Checklist)

 

It’s a matter of a couple of weeks before we’re in the throes of it: Fall.  And if your home operates under a school calendar, day-to-day activities are about to take off.  Forethought is what will help you limit stress and make it through this seasonal ramp up – especially when it comes to your home.  While you’re out running errands, we can be checking off repairs and seasonal maintenance for your home.  Here’s Handyman Matters’s shortlist of preventative home maintenance and repairs for the fall…

  • Inspect your Roof

Keep an eye out for summertime debris (Frisbees, footballs, kites) because these are the number one enemy of gutters, and believe you me, they will get stuck.  Also, doing a sweep for missing shingles and small leaks on your roof is one of the best preventative measures you can take to avoid costly, wintertime roof damage.

  • Repair Exterior Walkways

As leaves and snow begin to cover your walkways, it will be hard for guests to not step on the broken stair, or on the tile that habitually comes loose and falls out.  They won’t be able to see the ground, so make sure it’s stable and keep your guests safe.

  • Clean Out Vents and Filters

Filters, vents, and air ducts need to be cleaned regularly.  First-off because are a fire hazard when they aren’t maintained.  Dust heats up and catches fire.  Think: heaters, dryers, fans, etc.. Additionally, dust build-up doesn’t just stay put, it will circulate debris throughout your house.  Cleaning your home will be all that more difficult if your vents and filters are dispersing dust.

  • Clean and Repair Gutters

Effective draining systems protect your home from water damage.  Filter upcoming snow, rain, sleet, etc. out and away from your home by having clean, crack-less gutters.  You will be able to maintain your home’s paint while simultaneously avoiding wood rot.

  • Seal Doorways and Windows

Don’t spend more money than you need to heat your home.  Sealing the cracks in your doorways and windows will keep your house cozy and help you go green by being more energy efficient.  This may mean swapping out windows, doors, or adding some new sealant and caulk.

  • Trim Back Tree Branches

There’s nothing quite like an unexpected snow that causing unruly tree branches to snap.  In many scenarios this will mean damage to surrounding property.  Trim back branches hanging over walkways, parking spaces, driveways, roofs, or fences – you’ll be glad you did.

 

Lay the foundation for a productive fall by know your home is repaired, safe, and up to date.  Once you have your seasonal home maintenance list together, let us do the rest.  For a free estimate on your fall preparations call 866-FIX-MY-HOME.

Landscaping Ideas that will make your Backyard a Summer Getaway…

One of the biggest perks of owning your own home is being able to have a private outdoor space.  Your dogs can run free, you can host barbecues, or you can soak up some rays with your family.  As the weather gets warmer, step outside for a breath of fresh air.  Turning your backyard into a summer getaway will make staycations and spending time at home with family that much more fun.  Perhaps you’re wondering how to go about landscaping an outdoor space – well we have some ideas for you.  Explore your options so this summer can be one for the ages…

 

image via Better Homes and Gardens
    • Pergola

Decks aren’t the only option for finding a shady retreat.  Pergolas are the affordable alternative to a deck, providing just the right amount of relief from the hot sun.  While practical, structures like these also have a decorative element.  With the right green thumb, a vines can grow along your pergola like a Tuscany.  For the beer enthusiasts out there, this may be a great excuse to grow your own hops for home brewing.

 

 

 

  • Stone Walkways
image via houzz

Follow the yellow-brick-road, or something like it.  Stone additions to your home add a magical element, invoking stories of old roads, tired travelers, and a hopeful destination.  Visually and physically guide your guests through your backyard. Circle exceptional plants, walk visitors past your English gardens, or visit hidden ponds with your walkways.

 

 

 

 

 

    • Lawn Free
image via This Old House

There’s a lesser known fact that you don’t need a lawn to have a backyard (or front yard for that matter).  While the word lawn and backyard may be interchangeable their functions are not.  Especially in drier climates, opting for natural grasses and stonescaping may be preferable to grass.  Feathered plants like fine fescue, buffalo grass, or blue grama make take the typical lawn to a more interesting and whimsical place.

 

 

    • Raised Gardens
image via Sunset

Having a lush garden doesn’t mean having to overhaul you backyards current soil situation. Pack yourself a fertile, raised garden.  Up and out of reach from some of the typical culprits of plant damage, these gardens are the perfect solution to growing a healthy crop of vegetables or flowers.  Starting a controlled garden can also be a fun activity for the kids to learn about science and biology!

 

 

 

 

Does your backyard have a plan?  Get a free quote from the experts and begin to plan your summer getaway today – just call 866-FIX-MY-HOME or head to handymanmatters.com.

Fence Maintenance That Will Increase Your Home’s Value

The white picket fence is the classic symbol for the American dream.  You may not think about your fence on a regular basis, but keeping this structure in tact is essential.  Fences not only increase your home value and curb appeal, but they also add privacy and guard family pets.  Without a properly working fence, a lot can go wrong.  As the weather becomes sunny, and activities move to the outdoors, make sure your home is ready.  Here are a few techniques to start off your summer fence maintenance

  • Cleaning
    • Power Washing – renting a power washer works for all fence surfaces. It’s a high pressure way to get rid of seasonal grime and stains.
    • Scrubbing – wood and wire fences can be cleaned simply by scrubbing with a tougher scrub brush. For this you want to use a mild detergent or a diluted bleach mixture (16 parts water to 1 part bleach).
    • Vinyl Fences – these need careful attention. Only use a washcloth when cleaning them to avoid damage.  Also, be wary of using harsh chemicals as they may stain the fence.
  • Wood Rot or Leaning
    1. Dig out the post
    2. Chisel away the old concrete footing
    3. Realign or cut out rot
    4. Place back in ground and pour new concrete footing
    5. For fences that lean, adding a sister post, a support hammered into the ground and drilled into the original post can help in avoiding future leaning issues.
  • Drooping Gateway
    • An anti-sag kit will be the best solution. All parts are included in theses kits, just follow the instructions to install.  It will essentially form more tension on the side of the gate to keep it from sagging.

Fence maintenance can be an all-day if not all-weekend activity.  Save your summer free time for the fun activities! Handyman Matters is here to restore or install fences to suit your home’s needs.  Call today for a free estimate – 866-FIX-MY-HOME.

Building Your Own Fire Pit

Fire pits can be fancy or plain, complicated or easy.  If you’re on a tight budget, it’s still possible to create an attractive and functional fire pit that adds charm and warmth to your yard or patio in a few relatively simple steps on your own.

This method doesn’t require setting the pavers in concrete or pouring a permanent base, so it’s a quick and easy project.  With no messy concrete to mix and therefore not having to wait for the cement to dry and cure, it’s possible to build your fire pit on Saturday and use it for a party on Sunday.

Materials And Tools

  • Concrete Wall Stones
  • Cap Stones (Optional)
  • Masonry Adhesive (Optional)
  • Sand
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Level
  • Tamper

Before beginning your project, make sure to check your community’s building code for restrictions and regulations. Make sure to choose an area that is not near any buildings or low-hanging structures, trees or bushes. Ensure that you will not be digging near any underground utility lines, water or gas pipes.

Your fire pit should be approximately 36 to 44 inches in diameter. Lay out your stones in a test circle and mark the outside perimeter. You can use spray paint to mark grass, or use a shovel to cut the turf around the perimeter.

Remove your test circle and dig down 12 inches to create your pit. Make the walls of the hole as vertical as possible. Dig out the bottom so that it is flat and level. Pour several inches of sand in the bottom of the hole and tamp it to maintain a level surface.

Lay the wall stones just inside the perimeter of your hole. Make sure that they are resting snugly against the walls of the hole and against each other. Continue adding staggered courses until the wall is approximately 12 inches above ground.

Add another layer of sand in your stone ring, approximately four inches deep. The sand should cover the first course of stones.

At this point, your fire pit is ready to use. However if you wish to give your pit a more finished appearance, you can add a row of decorative capstones.  Set your capstones temporarily in place to get a smooth, continuous fit. Once you’re pleased with the spacing, pick up a capstone and use a dollop or two of masonry adhesive to set it in place. Continue around the circle and remove one piece at a time to apply the adhesive and reposition the stone. Press down firmly to spread the adhesive evenly and to make solid contact between the capstone and the stone wall.

Your fire pit is complete, looks great and is ready for a party or a leisurely get-together. Now it’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy your new outdoor living space.

If you are wanting a more elaborate fire pit or barbecue set-up than this or if you simply do not have time to do the work yourself, call 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above to find the Handyman Matters location closest to your home.  Expert craftsmen are happy to consult with you in order to create the customized barbecue/firepit that will best serve your individual needs.

 

 

Maintaining Your Yard and Garden During the Summer

Unfortunately, we can’t just do a little spring planting, fertilizing and weeding and expect to have a gorgeous yard and garden that lasts unattended all summer long.  It requires a bit of ongoing maintenance, like it or not!  But here are some easy and effective tips that will help you continue to enjoy your outdoor area to its fullest as the summer days pass (all too quickly, it seems).

Painful as it may seem to “deadhead” your flowers, doing so will ensure bigger, healthier blooms later on.  “Deadheading” is the process of pinching the blossoms off of petunias, pansies, columbines and other flowers just shortly after the flowers have reached their peak.  Plucking away the blossoms allows the plant to redirect energy and nutrients towards the flowers yet to come!

Similarly, it’s good to thin out clusters of sprouting seedlings for both flowers and vegetables.  During the planting stages, we never know which seeds will germinate, and which will remain dormant.  As often as not, too many seedlings will sprout in a single spot and then begin nudging each other for the available sunlight, water and nutrients.  By plucking out some of them, this enables the remaining ones to grow bigger and producer sturdier blossoms, fruits and vegetables.

Remember while trimming larger plants like rose bushes and shrubs, it’s important to keep the blades clean and sharp to secure clean cuts.  Otherwise, you risk harming vulnerable plants.  Be sure to clean your tools after dealing with diseased plants, and keep the blades free of debris and sap.

Be judicious in your watering, not just to conserve the resource, but to apply moisture when it is most advantageous to your plants.  Watering in the heat of the day or during a gusty afternoon is an exercise in pointlessness, as the water will quickly evaporate back into the atmosphere before it can soak in enough to do the plants much good.  Water things in the very early morning hours or in the evenings, when the sun’s rays aren’t at full effectiveness.  Collect rainwater from drain spouts, if you can.  And keep in mind that plants aren’t quite as discriminating when it comes to water as you or your pets are.  They can flourish just as well from leftover dish or bathwater or the contents of unfinished water bottles.

Make a habit of patrolling your property every week or so, checking for any signs of pests, damage caused by pets or sections of grass mysteriously turning brown.  Move quickly to refill holes, re-seeding bare patches, or applying a grass repair kit.

Be mindful that if you’ve set up a kiddy pool, gazebo, tent awning or heavy lawn furniture, it’s a good idea to relocate these things periodically to allow the grass beneath them to breathe and receive much-needed sunlight.

And, of course, a warm August afternoon is the perfect time to curl up with a glass of tea or lemonade and a seed and bulb catalogue so that you can begin making plans for next year’s garden.

For assistance in keeping your yard, lawn and garden in excellent shape, or for other landscaping help, you can always call 866-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above in order to secure the services of Handyman Matters professionals who can tackle those outdoors tasks that are just a little too large for you to handle alone.

 

How To Keep Your Deck Clean

Are you the kind of person who does nothing to clean the deck unless you are holding a barbecue? And, even then you clean the grill and the furniture but ignore the deck. With warm summery days in, you will be holding a lot of barbecue parties, and if you want your deck to look presentable and last long, you should make an effort to keep it clean.

Are you the kind of person who does nothing to clean the deck unless you are holding a barbecue? And even then, you clean the grill and furniture, but ignore the deck. With warm summery days coming you’ll be doing a lot of entertaining and you’ll want your deck to look it’s best.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Get A Cover For The Umbrella – Keep it closed when you are not using it.  Left open, dirt, debris and leaves can stain the umbrella.  If you don’t want to close it, consider getting a cover.  This may seem like extra work and expense, but you won’t be dealing with a dirty umbrella at the end of the season or having to think about replacing it.

2. Store All Chair Cushions – If you want the chair cushions to remain in good condition, put them away. Store them and take them out only when you are going to use them. Otherwise, exposure to the natural elements will stain them or the cushion fabric will begin to look old and faded. If you are not going to store them when not in use, make sure that you invest in a good waterproof fabric.

3. Clean Your Deck Weekly – Debris accumulates under the furniture and around the planters.  Schedule a regular time to clean the deck, preferably weekly after you have mowed the lawn.  Remove dried leaves and other debris into a pile some distance away to prevent it from blowing or getting tracked back again.

If the planters are heavy, then it may be difficult to move them. Get planters with wheels, so that you can wheel them aside and clear the moisture trapped beneath them. Letting moisture accumulate will be harmful for the deck, especially if it is wooden.

Buy lightweight furniture for the deck, so that you can tilt or move it and let the rainwater run down. Remove the moisture and all traces of water to protect the furniture and the deck.

4. Keep Paper Towels Handy – Use paper towels to clean stains on the deck, furniture, umbrella, tablecloth or the cushions, as soon as you see them. This will prevent the stains from becoming permanent. And the quicker you blot the stains, the easier it will be to remove them.

Don’t forget to wash between the slats, the underside, and the intersections when you are doing your weekly deck cleaning. Use a mild detergent and water to wash the deck. Following these tips will ensure that it is always clean during the summer and spring months. This will also help extend the life of your deck.

For more information on maintaining or even repairing your decks, contact Handyman Matters, at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above to find a location in your area.

Affordable Garden Ideas

If you are invested in making sure that your garden looks good this year, it is time to start planning. And while gardens are a lot of work, you will find that they do not need to be an expensive undertaking. Take a moment to consider what your options might be before plunging headlong into unnecessary costs.

If you are invested in making sure that your garden looks good this year, it is time to start planning.   And while gardens are a lot of work, you will find that they do not need to be an expensive undertaking.  Take a moment to consider what your options might be before plunging headlong into unnecessary costs.


Consider starting your garden from seeds rather than from sprouts.  A few months before the growing season, acquire your seeds, fold them into paper towels and keep them damp.  As they grow, choose the largest sprouts and put them into peat pots or small containers full of soil.  Wait until they are relatively sturdy before transplanting them.  This can take a lot of the cost out of gardening, as sprouts and young plants cost a lot more than seeds.

You can start a compost pile or a worm bin for a relatively small amount of money.  Compost helps your garden grow a lot more fervently than chemical growth solutions, and it is better for your environment in general.  You don’t have to have an enormous compost heap in the yard; a small one or a drum will do.

Save water.  When the rains come in, put out buckets to catch some water, or even cut off a drainspout and have the water drain into a barrel.  Make sure that the water is covered to prevent mosquitoes from laying their eggs in the water, but otherwise, you can simply use the water that you catch to water your garden and save on the water bill.

Grow local plants. Local plants will not only be more resistant to disease in the area, but they also tend to be cheaper than exotics.  This can make a huge difference to your garden, and growing local also tends to bring in local pollinators, like bees and butterflies.

For additional tips or assistance in maintaining your garden, yard and other landscaping needs, you can contact Handyman Matters at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code into the zip finder above at www.handymanmatters.com in order to locate the location closest to your home.

 

DIY Home Repair Tips for May

May – the tail end of spring and the precursor of summer – is the time when homeowners really need to kick their home DIY projects into high gear. With mild weather and sunny days, it’s the perfect time to take care of smaller outdoor tasks that aren’t ideal to handle in winter.

May – the tail end of spring and the precursor of summer – is the time when homeowners really need to kick their home DIY projects into high gear. With mild weather and sunny days, it’s the perfect time to take care of smaller outdoor tasks that aren’t ideal to handle in winter.

Follow these handy tips to keep your home up-to-date with repairs and maintenance during the month of May.

1.  Inspect and Tighten Screws and Nails on Decks and Patios.

Wood changes from season to season, warping and contracting with the changes in weather and temperature. Boards have a tendency to loosen if they aren’t maintained, which can cause accidents if they aren’t taken care of. To keep your deck or patio in top shape, tighten screws and hammer in protruding nails carefully to ensure that you don’t cause the boards to crack by over tightening.

2.  Clean and Seal Decks and Railings.

Decks and railings should be cleaned and sealed every year to extend their life. Usually it’s the top horizontal parts of the railing that need the most attention. It is also important to keep in mind that whatever product you start using should be used continually year over year to prevent any incompatibility issues.

3.  Inspect Concrete for Cracks.

Cracks, chips and shifting can occur in concrete. Make sure that you thoroughly inspect for all of these things. For cracks, you can grind with an angle grinder to a minimum of 1/8” and fill with a DOT spec “Bridge Grade Self-Leveling Caulk”. Only fill halfway, since it will expand as it dries. This will take care of filling cracks.

For any separation between the concrete and a wall over ½”, add a backer rod (a foam, flexible rod) to fill the gap and give the caulk something to sit on top of and stick to. If chipping and/ or missing chunks are the problem, scrape off any loose material and fill it in with “rockite”. Afterwards, texture it to match the surrounding finish for a perfect final appearance.

4.  Test Smoke Detectors.

Always test smoke detectors and CO2 detectors to make sure they’re still in working order. Replace batteries to prevent the possibility of them losing power. Also, push the button to test if the device is working.

5.  Double Check for Carpet Damages.

Stains, popped seams, and rumples are typical issues that homeowners face with carpet damage. Small stains can be removed easily with WD-40 or other household cleaners (test a small area first for discoloration). Popping seams in small areas can typically be fixed with a glue gun and frayed pieces need to be cut and covered with glue to prevent further unraveling. “Rumples” are areas where the carpet has a wavy look. These can be fixed with a “knee knicker” – a tool with a pad and teeth that grabs carpet and tightens it by pulling it further over the tack strip at the outside edge.

6.  Check for Rips, Tears and Curling in Linoleum.

For common rips in linoleum, re-glue with the manufacturer’s recommended glue. For tears that might happen, re-glue with a clear vinyl-seaming adhesive. Curling means that nothing is holding down the outside edge. These edges need to be covered and held down by molding, transition strips, adhesive caulk or other materials to prevent curling and allowing water and dirt under the flooring.

If any of these DIY projects are too much for you to take on or you just simply don’t have enough time in your day, call the experienced professionals at Handyman Matters today at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above to find a location in your area.