Diggin’ in the Dirt–Spring Vegetable Planting

March 27, 2012

Most people believe you need to wait until after the last frost before planting your garden. But for those itching to get back out and dig in the dirt, there are cool season vegetables you can plant right now that will survive an upcoming frost.

In the Boise area, we live in the 6a-6b plant zone as designated by the USDA’s interactive Plant Zone Hardiness Map. Hardiness Zones, Gardening Zones, Growing Zones and Plant Zones refer to defined geographic regions that can support specific plants, flowers and trees. The zones define a minimum range of temperatures that a plant or tree can survive safely in that zone. See the handy chart to the left for a visual representation of the Treasure Valley climate data (click the photo to enlarge it).

Cool Season Vegetables: Below are the veggies that require cool soil and air temperatures to germinate and begin growing. The good news is that Mother Nature will do most of the watering for you this time of year too. Cool-season veggies grow best at temperatures averaging 15° cooler than those needed by warm season types.

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Potatoes, Irish
  • Radishes
  • Spinach

 

The rule of thumb is to wait until all the snow has melted off Shafer Butte before planting warm season veggies. The average date for when that occurs is listed above as between May 11 – 20. Usually Memorial Weekend is a good time to get your garden planted in the Treasure Valley.

Please visit us on our website to view current promotions: boise.handymanconnection.com


Spring Yard Work and Tool Tips

March 13, 2012

Want to get a head start sprucing up your yard this year? Even though the sun hasn’t decided to stay with us for more than a day or two, there are still small projects you can tackle this spring to stay ahead of the curve. We have a short list of a few must-do items on your spring landscaping itinerary so that when the sun does finally decide to stay around for a while, you can enjoy it!

Weeding – Because Boise had a relatively warm winter, it seems as if the weeds have already started creeping in between the concrete and in our garden beds. You can start managing the weeds now. Be sure to have a dandelion weeder on hand to get long-tap-rooted weeds out and a hand-held mini-shovel (trowel) on hand for the flower beds and garden.

Raking – If you raked leaves into your garden or flower beds, or if you’re downwind of neighbors with big trees, you’ll need to do a little raking to clear out your beds. Otherwise, you may hamper spring growth underneath. For collecting clippings, trimmings and general cleanup, a leaf rake is best. A rake with spring-steel tines will also give lawns a good dethatching, and their smaller size lets you get into tight places around trees, shrubs, under fences and along foundations.

Pruning – If you didn’t get to pruning branches, perennials and shrubs last fall, it’s alright to do it in the spring. Newbie gardeners or home owners may wonder why pruning is needed? These are a few goals of pruning;

• Reduce size
• Stimulate lateral growth
• Establish form
• Remove dead wood or plant material
• Promote new growth for development of flowers and fruits
• Open up the canopy to increase air flow and sunlight penetration

Bypass hand pruners are the best type of pruners for cutting plant material up to about three-quarters of an inch in diameter. Anvil style pruning blades are best for dead wood and thicker limbs. For additional pruning tips, visit the Gardening Channel’s website.

Planting – The rule of thumb for planting in the Treasure Valley is to wait until all the snow has melted off Shafer Butte. But, for those who have a hard time waiting, there are a few flowers you can plant in early spring that will survive another frost;

  • Pansies (if you keep the spent blossoms pinched off, they will continue to bloom until the summer heat arrives)
  • Forget-me-nots
  • Primroses
  • Columbines
  • Bleeding hearts

If garden beds are full with too many perennials, they need to be thinned out. Check out tips on dividing perennials here.

What else is on your spring yard work list? Do you plant any garden vegetables in early spring?

Visit us at boise.handymanconnection.com to view our current promotions.


Spring Home Maintenance Tips

March 1, 2012

Daylight Savings begins on March 11th.  The first official day of spring is on March 20th.  There is already foliage for spring flowers growing in the yard. Yep, all the signs are pointing to SPRING being just around the corner!

Our houses can take a beating during the wet and cold winter months. When spring rolls around, it’s time to take inventory of what repairs need to be done now to save us money later.

This photo from Consumer Reports provides a nice visual for the most common trouble areas.

(Illustration by Bryon Thompson)

 Problem Spots & Solutions

1.       Decks – Be sure to remove moss and mold from your deck which create a slipping hazard. Consumer Reports recommends a pressure washer to remedy this problem. Also check for water stains where the deck meets the house. This could be a sign of decay and a weakening of the wood could mean it is treacherous to step on that area. Staining your deck each spring is a good idea to maintain the integrity of the wood surface.

 2.       Air Conditioner – If you don’t feel comfortable disconnecting the electric power to the outdoor condenser on your air conditioner, hire an expert. It will need to be clear it of leaves and debris and you can do so with a vent brush, power blower, garden hose, or the brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner. Vacuum the grille and register inside the home to ensure good airflow and change your furnace filter.

3.       Foundation Cracks – Not all cracks are cause for alarm but should definitely be watched.  Mark them with tape and check them again in a few months. If they’ve worsened, call a structural engineer. If they’re stable, fill them with an epoxy-injection system.  This Foundation problems 101 article will help you determine if the crack or fissure in your foundation is serious.

4.       Garage Doors – To check that the door is balanced, release it into the manual mode and lift it by hand. The door should lift easily and smoothly and stay open on its own about 3 feet off the ground. If it doesn’t, by hire a garage-door technician to counterbalance its overhead spring. Next, set the reversing force on the opener as low as possible. Place a 2×4 board on the ground under the door, wide side down. The door should pop back up when it hits the 2×4. If it doesn’t, call a garage-door pro. Test the photoelectric eyes by holding the 2×4 between them. The door should reverse direction. If it doesn’t, have it checked by a pro.

5.       Gutters – After the dropping of fall leaves and winter wind has blown branches and debris around, be sure to clear gutters and check them for corrosion, joint separation or loose fasteners. Flush out downspouts and unclog leader pipes. The rule of thumb is that leaders should extend at least 5 feet to direct water away from the foundation.

6.       Roofs - Inspect the roof for cracked, curled or missing shingles. You can also check the siding under roof eaves, and the ceilings in the rooms below, for water or discoloration. These are indications that ice dams might have created leaks along the roof edge. It is common for leaks to occur around a chimney, skylight or other opening. From the attic, inspect the rafters for water stains. Unless you’re an expert, patching leaks is best left to a professional.

A few other spring maintenance tips from Bob Vila worth noting are;

  • Remove, clean and store storm windows. Check and patch all door and window screens before the insect season.
  • Look for cracks and holes in house siding or paint. Replace caulk if necessary. A carpet knife can work well for cutting away old caulking from house siding. Slice down alongside it from both directions with the hook-like blade, then use the knife to lift out the old caulk bead intact.
  • Clean your fireplace of ashes and leave the damper open for improved ventilation if your home is not air-conditioned.

Each of these tips, when treated early, will save you time and money in the long run.

Happy spring! Please visit us at boise.handymanconnection.com to view our current promotions.


#6 of Top 10 Projects for New Home Owners

February 16, 2012

With the real estate market as it is, the foreclosure and short sale homes aren’t as “move-in-ready” as the others. Under the circumstances, I know more than a handful of friends who’ve taken advantage of the killer real estate deals, but have had to put in some good ol’ elbow grease to get their new home back to livable conditions.

Thankfully, on their website, The Family Handyman magazine has outlined the Top 10 DIY Projects for New Home Owners. The steps to maintain and tune up your garage door are shown below, but if you want to see step-by-step photos and the remaining nine tips, read the full article here.

Before you start, be sure to heed the following cautions:

  1. Unplug the automatic door opener so it can’t be activated.
  2. If the door is open while you’re working, clamp a locking pliers onto the roller track below a roller to keep it from dropping.
  3. Never remove a lift cable while a door spring is under tension. If released, it’ll cut like a knife.
  4. Never attempt to adjust or release the tension on an overhead torsion spring. This is a job for garage door professionals only.

Step 1 : Inspect your door’s hardware:

  • Tighten the nuts and bolts – Because your door moves, the hardware can loosen. Inspect and tighten all roller brackets and the bolts that hold the rails to support the brackets.
  • Inspect the rollers for wear and tear – Nylon rollers tend to crack or chip when they deteriorate, so defects should be easy to spot. On steel rollers, the bearings wear and the wheel begins to tilt like the one shown. Buy replacement rollers at a hardware store and install them by removing and reinstalling the roller bracket. Caution: Do not remove the bottom roller bracket. The cable attached to it is under extreme tension.
  • Inspect the lift cable for wear – Look for broken strands. Damage is most likely to occur where the cable attaches to the bottom roller bracket, where it’s most exposed to moisture. Clear away the gunk from this area with an old toothbrush so you can check the condition of the cable. Since this cable is under high tension, don’t try to replace it yourself. Call a garage door professional to replace it.

Step 2: Maintain springs, chains and seals:

Lubricate the chain or the screw on your opener annually with white lithium grease. Spray-on versions are available at most home centers. Lubrication will make the opener’s operation smoother, quieter and extend the life of both chain and opener.

Note: Some screw openers do not require lubrication. Check your Owner’s Manual.

  • Lubricate the springs – Coat the overhead torsion springs or the extension springs mounted above roller tracks with a lubricant/ cleaner like WD-40. Don’t wipe off the excess. All springs will eventually break because of metal fatigue and/or corrosion, but this annual maintenance will prevent corrosion. Note: Replacing springs is a job for a professional. If one spring breaks, both should be replaced
  • Replace the weather seal - Replace the weather seal on the bottom of your door if it’s brittle and worn. On wood doors, remove the old seal with a flat pry bar. Install the new seal with the wide angle of the flange to the inside of the door. Use 1-in. galvanized roofing nails to attach one end of the seal, then pull it across the door and nail the other end. Next place a few nails in the center. This technique will help you keep the seal aligned as you go back and place nails every 3 to 4 in.
  • Test the balance of your door – A properly balanced door is less likely to crush someone or something and keeps your door opener from working too hard. First, disengage the opener from the door by pulling the opener release handle (see opening photo). Then lower the door about halfway. A properly balanced door will hold the halfway position without assistance. If the door rides back up, the springs are under too much tension. If it falls, the tension needs to be increased. Adjusting the spring tension is tricky and dangerous. Call a garage door professional to perform the service!
  • Test the auto reverse feature - Test the auto reverse feature of your automatic opener by placing a 2×4 directly under the point where the opener is attached to the door. The door should reverse direction within two seconds after coming to a stop. If your door opener doesn’t have an auto reverse feature, buy a new opener.
  • Install lift handles - Install a lift handle on both sides of the door. Make sure the handle will clear the top of the door frame; otherwise, you may need a lower-profile handle or your door may need adjustment. If there’s a handle, you’re less likely to pull down on the spaces between sections, a habit that results in hundreds of crushed fingers every year.
  • Bolt the cable to the bracket - Mount an extension spring containment cable on extension spring- type doors by bolting one end to the bracket at the front of the upper rail.
  • Feed the cable through the spring - Feed the cable through the extension spring and bolt the other end to the upper support bracket. Make one full loop of the cable around the bolt and secure it with a fender washer and a locknut.

Step 3: Test to ensure safety

The Family Handyman states that each of these tasks should take 10 minutes or less. If all else fails, call Handyman Connection and we will help get your garage door in working order in no time.

Visit our website at boise.handymanconnection.com



Tips & Tricks to Make the Chore of Laundry Less Painful

January 30, 2012

There are some people out there whose favorite household chore is laundry. They simply love to fold it, stack it and put it away. I for one am not one of those people! So, when I heard there were tips for making the process of laundry less painful, I was all over it. First of all, let’s start with some “Did You Knows?”

  • Did you know that if you want to thoroughly clean your dryer lint screen, you can put it in the dishwasher.  Fred Holzhauer from Method says you should “Wash it on the top rack every three months or so.”
  • Did you know that when the inside of your washing machine starts to stink, you can remove the odor by “filling it to capacity with hot water, then adding a gallon of plain white vinegar and run a normal cycle.” – Heloise, household expert/author
  • Did you know that “using too much detergent can actually make your clothes dirtier? Overdosing creates excess suds, which result in residue on clothes that attracts dirt and odors. Trust the fill lines and pay attention to load size.” – Fred Holzhauer, Method

Laundry Organization Tips

The right organization system will make any process run more smoothly. This Evertidy Smart Laundry Organizer System will help save room on top of the washer and will keep all your cleaning products in one central location.

Sorting laundry is takes no time at all if you have the right kind of laundry basket. Try this triple container sorter to organize your laundry as it goes into the hamper. This will save you time on laundry day.

Stain Removal Tricks

My three personal stain removing tricks are;

  1. Oxi Clean. I soak nearly any garment in Oxi Clean overnight to remove stains. It is bleach free and safe for any fabric color. Just don’t soak anything with beads or sequins on it or it will ruin them.
  2. Dawn Detergent. I once ran my white sheets through the wash with an entire tube of red lipstick. What a mess. I soaked it in Dawn Detergent (in the sink), rinsed it and then ran it through the wash again. You would have never been able to tell it was red polka-dotted a few hours prior. Dawn works wonders for oil based stains.
  3. Hairspray. Do you get ink stains all over yourself in the course of a day like I do? If so, treat the area with a few squirts of hairspray. You will see the ink begin to bleed. Let sit for 15 minutes and then wash as normal.

Need more stain removal tips? Find out how to remove nearly any stain with these tips & tricks.

A few other tips from to make sure laundry day is a success are;

  • “Start a top load washing machine by filling it with water, adding detergent so it can dissolve, then putting clothes in last. This prevents overloading so clothes rinse cleaner.” – Heloise
  • “To get clothes really white, always add bleach during the last five minutes of the wash cycle.” – Tremitchell Wright, Whirlpool Institue of Fabric Science

This blog post has been adapted from the article entitled, “The Pro’s Dirty Little Laundry Secrets” from HGTV magazine.


Forecasted Paint Trends for 2012

January 19, 2012

Each year we report the trends in paint and design for your home and each year, the colors seem to parallel what we’re experiencing in our economic and social climate.  According to Benjamin Moore, in 2011, the themes for paint colors were all about balance; including back to basics, self expression and calming palettes.

In 2012, the forecasted colors are predicted to evolve from our current environment to reflect the themes of preservation and protection. Perhaps the environment is changing so fast we look to paint and design as outward expressions of reconnecting with our past and slowing the pace of life to protect our future.

At Benjamin Moore’s ColorPulse 2012 event, the forecasted color trends were;

1.    Heritage – our past 

Heritage means “valued objects and qualities such as cultural traditions.” If we equate that to paint, colors speaking to this trend include earth tones, dark/rich colors and jeweled tones. Think of the Native American colors and patterns with rich deep reds, rich neutrals, bright sunny yellows and turquoise blue.

2.    Process – our journey 

A journey is a “series of actions or steps taken to achieve an end result.” Therefore, the translation to color could be blueprint inspired hues, greens with digital and organic influences, whitespace to represent a blank canvas and modern neutrals.

3.    Protection – our vulnerability

Protection is “preservation from injury or harm.” This means metallic’s along with bronze and silver will still be seen frequently, pink and purple undertones and black.

4.    Enlightenment – our future 

To be enlightened is to gain insight on a deep or spiritual level. You can almost envision these colors…cloudy whites, silvery and mirror effects, along with shades of watery blues and purples. Keep an eye out for orbital shapes (the oval shape of an egg) as they symbolize rebirth. 

Do you see these colors as reflective our current environment? Would you ever change your home design or paint colors to reflect these trends? Let us know.

Please visit our website at http://boise.handymanconnection.com to view our current promotions.

This article was adapted from an article entitled Color Trends for 2012 from YourHomeOnlyBetter.com.


Reflecting on 2011

December 30, 2011

As we reach the end of 2011, let’s pause to reflect on the past year and what we’re grateful for in our lives. Instead of thinking about what you didn’t accomplish or your perceived failures, think about what you learned from your mistakes to make you stronger in the future, and how you can turn failure into success in 2012. Think about every positive aspect you experienced in 2010 and all you have to be grateful for—starting with the little things taken for granted each day.

At Handyman Connection, we are grateful to you for letting us fix, design, build, refinish and remodel your homes. We appreciate your business and wish you a very Happy New Year!

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  - Anonymous


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