Friday, July 29, 2016

Maintaining a Beautiful Garden While Conserving Water

We know it’s hot out there – and we’re not the only ones feeling a bit dehydrated. Our gardens feel the heat too, and sometimes need some extra TLC to make it through the swelter. It’s still important, though, to minimize water usage, which brings us to a crossroads: Use more water to save your cherished garden or conserve and hope the plants make it ‘til September with less than optimal water? With the garden watering tips below, hopefully you won’t have to choose.

There are a wide range of measures you can take to ensure your garden survives – and thrives – through the summer without using up the water supply. So read on and tackle your garden with a new confidence, even through triple-digit temperatures.

1) Save and reuse water whenever possible for watering outdoor plants! There are a number of ways to do this:
     a.    Install a water tank to collect rainwater.
     b.   Save the water you use to cook instead of pouring it down the sink (bonus – the nutrients from your food will act as fertilizer for your plants); just make sure it’s cooled off before watering.
     c.    Save the old water from your fish tank.

2) Use mulch! This will keep soil moist as well as prevent water-sucking weeds from growing – and will also add nutrients to your garden. You can find a wide range of high-quality mulches here.

3) If you use a hose, invest in a soaker hose like the ones here. Soaker hoses are made of a porous material through which water seeps along the entire length of the hose. Water leaks out from the hose at a rate that the ground can absorb, so there’s no excess runoff, meaning more efficient watering of your plants. What’s more, since water is released so close to the ground, less of it evaporates, and instead, it goes directly to the roots of your plants.

4) While we’re on the subject of hoses, you may also want to check out a drip irrigation hose, another great option for efficient watering. These are similar to soaker hoses but are made of flexible plastic tubing that water slowly drips out of. They’re better for using on sloped surfaces, so if you’ve got an uneven yard, you can check out some of these hoses here and here.

5) If you’re starting out with your garden (or are willing to do some rearranging), consider creating garden zones based on which areas are naturally sunny or shady, or receive more or less water runoff. Grouping plants together by their specific needs means you won’t have to water your entire yard every time but can water by area instead.

6) For those who are looking into purchasing new plants, try to find varieties that require less water. This includes slow-growing plants or plants with small or narrow leaves. Also, plants that are native to your region will be better adapted to the climate, which can often mean lower water requirements.

7) Plant tall plants or garden structures in your yard to provide some shade if you don’t already have it. Plants that live in shaded areas need less water.

8) Invest in a moisture meter! These small, inexpensive devices will provide quick data on how moist or dry your garden’s soil is. Ideally, you want to get to that sweet spot of 40 – 70 percent moisture. You can find several moisture meter options here.

9) Time your watering. For gardens, morning is best. This will give your plants plenty of water to get through hot days and will reduce the amount of water that evaporates since winds are usually lighter in the morning. For potted plants, watering in the afternoons has been found to lead to the healthiest plant growth. Watering in the evening works too, although it’s less likely that the water will evaporate from the leaves of your plants, which could lead to fungal growth.

10) For potted plants, consider the material of the pot. Porous pots (like clay) will draw more moisture from the soil, so you’ll have to do more watering. 

It’s important to keep in mind that, to a certain extent, plants will adapt to the water they receive. Of course, they will need a minimal amount to remain healthy, but watering them more than necessary means plants will get used to living off that amount of water. However, that doesn’t mean that they need it. 

Maintaining a healthy garden is an art, and it’ll require a certain extent of trial and error as you learn about the plants growing there and the specific conditions of your garden. Following these tips will help – but every garden is different. Experiment a little on your own and see what works best for saving water in the garden!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How to Create a DIY Outdoor Sticky Fly Trap

Summer is here, and it’s horse fly, deer fly, moose fly and speckled wing fly season! Big time! If you live in a rural, wooded setting then you know every time you step out the door to take your daily walk or jog you are bombarded by these pesky, vicious, biting flies. For the entire walk you are constantly swatting at biting insects and trying to outrun the barrage. They seem to relish the flavor of most repellents. They can make your precious time outdoors just plain miserable. Want some relief? Try one of these DIY ideas and you’ll be amazed!

Get Relief By Creating A Sticky Situation

Take one of your old every day baseball caps and place two or three strips of wide, blue painter's tape on it, starting at the top of the cap and layering the strips down the back. Why use blue painter's tape? Researchers have discovered that flies are 3 times more attracted to the color blue than yellow. In fact, flies may even be repelled by the color yellow! A lot of fly and insect traps on the market are yellow in color, and this may be actually hindering your ability to attract and catch flies. Next,  use a paint brush to apply a liberal coating of Tanglefoot insect trap coating over the blue painters tape. Tanglefoot is a sticky insect trap coating that can be used in a variety of applications, is OMRI listed, and is long lasting and weather proof. 

Wear the cap on your walk or jog – the flies are attracted to the blue color, and are caught in the Tanglefoot insect trap coating, where they eventually die. Occasionally one will get caught in such a way that it can continue to flap its wings, and the buzzing is a tad irritating, but with a little patience or the light tap of a finger the buzzing soon ceases.

If you own an ATV, UTV, or even a bicycle, one variation on the “cap trap" is to use old coffee cans or plastic plant pots and either spray paint them blue or cover them with the blue painters tape, attach them in some creative way to your ATV, UTV, or bicycle, and then apply Tanglefoot insect trap coating.  Go for a ride down your favorite trail and let the traps collect all the nuisance flies!

 It doesn’t take many trips to significantly reduce the biting fly population in the target area to a point where your outdoor activities are enjoyable once again. You’ll need to go for a ride every few days to stay ahead of the pests, but going for a ride is a fun way to get outside and enjoy the summer while reducing the local fly population at the same time.

What do you think of our DIY Sticky Fly Traps? Let us know in the comments!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Composting Toilets 101: What Every Homeowner Needs to Know

Did you know that approximately 90 percent of what goes into your toilet is water based? You may think little about those bathroom deposits, but the rising popularity of the composting toilet may leave you wanting to know more. These compact toilets are popping up in many tiny houses and cottages, but you can also find larger units approved for heavier residential use. While they may look a little different than the toilet that you use every day, they offer an environmentally friendly alternative.

How Do Composting Toilets Work?

You sit on a composting toilet and work your magic just as you would with a standard toilet. Some models may have a small footstool on the front, which may make your sitting position more comfortable. The unit has a heater and fan that run continuously. The heater evaporates the liquid in your deposit and releases it from a vent in the back of the toilet. The solid matter is collected inside the toilet and allowed to decompose naturally.

The fan is designed to eliminate odor, so you won't have to endure a foul smell in your home when you purchase a quality toilet from a reputable brand. You have to watch the gauge on the toilet to determine when it's time to empty the solid matter. How often you have to complete this task will depend on the frequency of use.

How to Select the Best Composting Toilet

This isn't a product that you can walk into any local store and buy off the shelf on a whim. You need to do some research to compare your options so that your toilet fits your bathroom just as well as your lifestyle. Here are some factors to consider:

Size: Determine how you want to position the toilet in your bathroom and measure the available space. Make sure that you account for leg room when sitting on the toilet. Height: Some compact composting toilets are low-profile units. While this may help conserve wall space in a small bathroom, make sure that you're comfortable squatting down that low. Capacity: The smaller the toilet, the more often you can expect to empty the solid matter. While you may want something compact for a small bathroom, make sure that the size is appropriate for the number of people using the bathroom. Design: There are some advanced design features that you may want, including the ability to hide the back vent from view. The lines and shape of the toilet may concern you from an aesthetic viewpoint as well. Certification: The Sun-Mar Excel was the first composting toilet to receive certification from the National Sanitation Foundation, and it has received more testing than many competing brands on the market today. The reputation of the brand is essential because you want the most functional and efficient composting toilet available.

The good news is that there aren't so many composting toilets available that you will have trouble comparing their sizes and features. If you want the best of the best, go with the Sun-Mar brand. The Excel toilet was tested by the National Sanitation Foundation for six months, and it was proven an odorless and efficient toilet even when used at maximum capacity. It's approved for residential as well as cottage use.

If you need a smaller unit, look at the Compact Sun-Mar Composting Toilet. It's approved for light residential or cottage use and has a low-profile design that fits easily into smaller bathrooms. Just like the Excel, it has an emergency drain that allows you to remove liquid from the toilet if it's used when the power goes out. You can also use this emergency drain if the toilet is overused and needs emptied right away.

What About Installation?

While Sun-Mar composting toilets come with everything that you need for installation and clear instructions, it can take some time to get your toilet ready for use. The most challenging part is running PVC pipe through the roof to create the ventilation system. This is needed to control airflow to and from the toilet, allowing the decomposition process to work efficiently. Each toilet comes with enough pipe to accommodate most single-story structures, but you may need to purchase more if your home has multiple floors

Should You Take the Composting Toilet Plunge?

Composting toilets are a good option if you want the most environmentally friendly option for your home or you have a small bathroom that won't accommodate many other toilets well. This is also a perfect fit for rural homes without septic systems. A composting toilet is far more affordable than paying for a new septic system.

When determining whether to invest in this type of toilet, also consider the expected frequency of use. If you have a large family or expect heavy use of the toilet for other reasons, you may find that a larger composting system is required. You will also have to empty the tray more often, so make sure that you have a plan in place for that task.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Different Types of Bird Feeders and Bird Waterers

So you’ve decided to add a bird feeder or waterer to your home. That’s wonderful! Bird feeders and accessories make beautiful additions to any yard and can help families get in touch with nature. But how do you know which kind to buy? You might be inclined to think that all feeders are the same, but in actuality, they vary greatly when it comes to the types of birds they attract, their functionality and the features they offer.

With that in mind, here’s a list of the most common types of bird feeders and waterers to help you decide which one is right for your yard.

Bird Feeders

Nectar Feeders – For hummingbirds

Nectar feeders are generally used to feed hummingbirds because they are filled with the same sweet nectar that is usually provided from flowers. You can easily recreate the nectar by mixing water with sugar and adding it to the reservoir. The benefits of choosing a nectar feeder are that it is relatively inexpensive and won’t cause pesky intruders. However, make sure you diligently clean the feeder whenever it needs it, as drinking contaminated nectar can potentially hurt the hummingbirds. We recommend purchasing a red nectar feeder like our Dew Drop Hummingbird Feeder because hummingbirds are attracted to the color red!

Suet Feeders – For woodpeckers, chickadees, jays and starlings

Suet feeders are uniquely designed with a metal fencing around the seed, which attracts birds that normally eat by hanging on to trees. Suet cakes are placed inside the fencing, allowing easy access for birds while protecting it from rodents. Although some suet feeders are plain, you can find others that are beautifully decorated, such as the Single Leaf Suet Feeder. With this kind of feeder, you’ll get a lot of attention from woodpeckers, chickadees, jays and starlings.

Hopper Feeders – For finches, jays, cardinals, sparrows and more

Distinguished by their covered roofs, hopper feeders like the cute hopper bird feeder below look the most traditional compared to others and are very pleasant to look at. While this type of birdhouse can rejuvenate any yard, it is also one of the more difficult to maintain, so make sure you’re dedicated to the task before buying one. Most common birds will flock to this type of feeder, but because the food isn’t completely protected, birds have to be careful and keep an eye out for predators. You also have to make sure not to let the feeder get wet, as the seeds can create mold and harm birds if eaten. 

Tube Feeders – For sparrows, chickadees, finches, jays and more

Tube feeders are easily recognizable based on their cylindrical and narrow shape. Easy to clean and dry, this type is a popular choice among homeowners because many of them come with added security features to prevent squirrels from climbing up. For instance, the Yankee Flipper Seed Feeder, has a motorized perch ring that is specially designed to discharge squirrels, based on their weight. Small and large species are both attracted to this design, so you’ll have plenty of attention from your local birds!

Bird Waterers

Bird waterers continuously provide fresh water through shallow pools for birds to drink and bathe in. Unlike bird baths, bird waterers automatically replenish the water once it has been used through a reservoir at the top that you can fill with water every so often. Bird waterers are a great substitute for traditional bird baths because the water will constantly be refilled and therefore these waterers require less maintenance from you. Our Daisy Bird Bath and Waterer contains over 100 ounces of water that is released into four separate drinking pools along with plenty of space for your winged friends to hydrate. And cleanup is simple; all you have to do is rinse it with soapy water and hang it back up!

Now that you’ve learned about the most common types of bird feeders and waterers, you’re hopefully more prepared to decide what kind you want for your own yard. Remember that different feeders are meant for different types of birds and require various degrees of maintenance, so the time you’ll need to commit should be considered. Once you’ve figured out what you want, your neighborhood birds will be delighted – and you’ll have something beautiful to look at every time you step outside!