Lawn care 101 , Get ready for summer !

1 Know the Numbers

When you buy fertilizer, you'll see three numbers on the label. These numbers show the percentage of nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium, respectively, which are the primary nutrients needed to feed your lawn. So a 20-5-10 bag will have 20 percent nitrogen, 5 percent phosphate, and 10 percent potassium. The rest of the bag usually contains filler material that helps ensure an even application. The 20-5-10 mixture is a good basic mix for spring.

2 Use a Slow-Release With the Right Amount of Nitrogen

Slow-release fertilizers break down their nutrients over a longer period of time, so you can wait longer between applications. "With slow-release, you can go every six to eight weeks, depending on your watering, instead of every four weeks," Turnbull says.

He recommends a slow-release that contains nitrogen but not too much. "The most nitrogen you need on a lawn is one-tenth of a pound per week. The grass can't get any greener than that. If you use more, you're only going to make the grass grow faster so you have to mow more often," Turnbull says. "The secret is to get it as green as possible without growing it fast." Turnbull recommends giving your lawn between 2 and 3 pounds of nitrogen over the entire growing season. "If you go with 25-0-4, that gives you 1 pound of nitrogen, so over four weeks, that's a quarter pound per week," Turnbull says. "That's too much. At that point, you're baling hay instead of mowing a lawn.

3 Go With Granules

When pros apply fertilizer, they often pull up in a tanker truck and spray your entire lawn in an impressively short amount of time. But pros do this every day, so they know how to factor in the wind and make sure the yard gets even coverage and have the equipment to get the job done right. Homeowners, on the other hand, should use granules and apply them with a spreader.

"Granular fertilizer is very easy to apply accurately," Turnbull says. "When you're spraying, it's tough for a nonprofessional to get a consistent application across the lawn."

4 Plan 5 Applications—and Start Now

Turnbull says to give the lawn its first feeding of fertilizer in the spring when the soil temperature reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Your local university extension office can give you the soil temperature, but you'll know when the soil warms up to 55 because the lilacs begin to blossom and the grass starts growing. For most parts of the country, that means the first feeding should take place by about mid-April. So if you haven't started, now's the time.

The second feeding should happen about four weeks later, in early to mid-May. Then fertilize every six to eight weeks after that through October (see tip 5 for whether you should choose six- or eight-week intervals). For the third feeding, use an organic material, such as manure, instead of a traditional fertilizer.

And remember that fall feeding is critical. "Grass is still growing in the fall. The roots are going down and they need fertilizer," Turnbull says. "This is the most important application of the year."

5 Don't Forget About Watering

Contrary to what some people think, the more you water your lawn, the more fertilizer it needs. "With more water, there is more growth, so you need more fertilizer," Turnbull says. "As the grass grows, it uses more nutrients." If you have a sprinkler system, you'll need to fertilize about every six weeks. Without a sprinkler, you can wait another two weeks between feedings.

Be sure to read what the fertilizer label says regarding watering before or after the application. Granules need moisture to break down, and some fertilizers require you to wet the lawn with about a quarter-inch of water before applying them.

6 Fill 'er Up and Close the Hopper

When you're ready to fill the spreader, park it in the driveway—or, if you can't, at least put a tarp under it. This keeps any spilled granules from accumulating in one stop on the lawn, where it can burn and kill the grass.

"Make sure your hopper is shut when filling up the spreader," Turnbull says. "That's lesson number one that everyone forgets at least once."

A broadcast spreader is a better choice than a drop spreader for homeowners. Broadcast spreaders are easier to use, and since they disperse the fertilizer a wider distance, there's less chance you'll end up with strips in your yard casued by not overlapping the rows properly. Plus, at my local Lowe's, broadcast spreaders are significantly cheaper. They start at $32, while drop spreaders start at $84.

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7 Apply, but Don't Over-Apply

The fertilizer label will give you the application rate. But don't follow it. "Start out at half of what's recommended on the bag," Turnbull says. "One of the biggest mistakes I see is going with the spreader wide open."

He recommends spreading the fertilizer at half the recommended rate, or slightly less, in one direction on the lawn, then spreading it again at half the rate in a perpendicular direction. This pattern gives better coverage and helps prevent over-applying. "Too little is better than too much. I always recommend to err on the side of too little," Turnbull says.

Cover the perimeter of the yard first, then fill in the middle. Since you're applying the fertilizer at half the recommended rate, it won't spread out very far, so you don't need to estimate how much spacing to keep between rows. "Go tire track to tire track," Turnbull says. "This ensures good coverage."

8 Sweep Up Stray Granules

Sometimes, fertilizer ends up on your driveway or patio, despite your best efforts. If that happens, sweep it up rather than letting the rain wash it away.

"If you don't sweep it up, it just adds extra pollution," Turnbull says. "It gets washed away and ends up in the rivers and streams. Sweeping up the fertilizer is good for nature."

Trees, Trimming and Power Lines: Let's be careful out there

This article was posted at "", 

This all began began with a phone call on the show a while back, when our listener asked the dreaded 'follow-up' question, which is always like the teenagers in the slasher movie deciding to go down and see what's making that strange noise in the basement. Like them, I should have instead run screaming from the house.

She asked what time of year would be best to prune a Bradford pear they had planted under power lines (apparently not expecting it, like other trees, to grow any taller). I said 'dead of winter', which is technically correct if you don't include the power lines. When you DO include them, the 'dead' part becomes the accurate word in my phrase. The correct answer is of course 'never'. "Call the power company and let people who are trained in avoiding electrocution handle it" is what I should have said.

But I didn't. And so my penance was to say fourteen Hail Mary's, six Our Father's, a Perfect Act of Contrition and have someone on the show who knew what they talking about. That wound up being Rick Johnstone, president of Integrated Vegetation Management Partners, Inc. in Newark, Delaware and a Past president of the Utility Arborist Association. Here's his/our Top Ten Tips for Proper Tree Trimming Safety:



  1. Observe the ten-foot rule. Don't attempt to work on trees that are within ten feet of any kind of overhead wires. This distance insures that you won't touch any wires while you're on your way down to break your neck.
  2. Call the electric utility instead. You don't have to touch any wires personally to headline a big story in your local paper. Just touching a branch that's touching a wire can cause fatal injury, as the voltage on a typical overhead power line can be a hundred times greater than your indoor household current. Here's some more detail on distances and other safety issues. 
  3. Do call if branches are in or approaching the lines—especially the branches of fast-growing trees, as these are often the weakest and most prone to breaking. Don't ignore a potential problem; if you do, it'll be your fault when everybody has to huddle for days in the cold and dark after the ice storm. 
  4. Plant the right trees to begin with. Here's a link to an article from Tennessee that Rick Johnstone especially likes, naming the best trees and big shrubs to install near power lines. 
  5. When doing any pruning, work only on a steady, level surface. Untrained individuals who try to prune big trees from a ladder often end up toast—and that's without impacting any power lines. If you can't do the work safely, easily and with your feet on terrafirma, call a pro. The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) is the organization that certifies arborists as being well trained. (When people say they're a "certified arborist", ISA is the certifying body.) The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) accredits tree-care companies
  6. For work that you can do safely, don't remove large branches all at once. It may be funny in a cartoon, but it's no joke when a 60-pound piece of wood swings around and knocks you for a loop. Large branches should be removed in small, easy to handle sections. (My own rule of thumb is to cut sections that are already perfect wood-stove or fireplace size without additional cutting.) 
  7. For the long-term health of the tree, always remove dead or heavily diseased limbs (or have them removed) as soon as possible. Don't worry about seasonality. 
  8. Never cut a branch flush to the trunk of a tree. Look carefully where the branch meets the tree; you'll see a little 'collar' there. That collar should still be attached to the tree after you take the branch off. 
  9. Don't seal any pruning cuts or other wounds. Like humans, trees are very good at sealing over injuries with their own form of scar tissue; spreading anything overtop of a wound will only interfere with this natural process. 
  10. Never 'top' a tree. Many homeowners put trees in the ground without any thought as to how high they'll eventually get. Experts can lower the height of some deciduous trees without damage or disfigurement, but no one can do it on evergreens with pointy tips. And you can't give ANY tree a straight across 'crew cut' and expect it to do anything than look really ugly for a few years and then die. 



New Law Regarding Automatic Garage Door Openers

In the last twenty years, 68 children have been killed by garage doors with automatic openers and countless others injured, according to an article published by the Modesto Bee last year. In 1982, the door operators and remote control industry received their voluntary safety guidelines resulting with most manufacturers providing openers that automatically reverse upon encountering an obstruction. 
Between 1982 and 1989, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 44 children have been killed under automatic garage doors. Many others have suffered brain damage or other serious injury. 

A March 16, 1990, CPSC news release advised parents to disconnect and replace any garage door opener that does not automatically reverse upon impact. 

Even doors with this safety device can fail due to improper adjustment or poor maintenance. 

Before this year, no federal or state regulations existed governing the sale of residential garage door openers. Legislation in California (AB 3600, introduced by Assemblyman Polanco was approved by the governor on September 25, 1990, to go into effect January 1, 1991. 
From that date forward in California no residential garage door opener can be sold, manufactured or installed in a single-family or multifamily dwelling without an automatic reverse safety device which complies with standards set forth by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). The law further requires that manufacturers of residential garage door openers clearly identify the date of manufacture and its compliance with the specified standards. Sellers of residential garage door openers must include a complete set of installation, operation, maintenance and testing instructions and installers must comply with the instructions. 

Violations of the sale and/or servicing or repair provisions carry a civil penalty of $500 per opener. Violations of the requirements regarding the manufacture or installation are subject to a $1,000 fine per opener. After July 1, 1991, sellers of real property must disclose on the Real Estate Transfer Disclosure Statement that a garage door opener may not be in compliance with the required safety standards. Violations of this requirement carry a $500 penalty. 

Because of the possibility of failure of the automatic reverse safety device required as of January 1, 1991, the law goes one step further. As of January 1, 1993, all automatic garage door openers must be equipped with a tactile garage door edge sensor, an optical sensor or a similar device that, when activated, is designed to cause a closing door to open and to prevent an open door from closing. 

Additionally, after January 1, 1993, the law requires service personnel, upon completion of service or repair, to determine whether the automatic garage door opener reverses upon contact with a rigid two-inch high object placed on the surface beneath the garage door. If the opener fails this test, the person must conspicuously affix to the opener a red certificate that explains in specified language that door did not reverse when it met the obstruction. 

A garage door opener may be tested as follows:

  1. Place a two-inch block of wood in the path of the descending door.
  2. Check to see if the door reverses within two seconds.
  3. If it does not, disconnect the door and consult a professional door opener
  4. installer.

Additional safety tips to keep in mind:

  1. Never buy an opener that does not meet current UL standards.
  2. Never operate a poorly maintained or improperly adjusted door.
  3. Locate the switch above the reach of a child.
  4. Never allow children to operate the device. Keep the remote control away from children
  5. Keep the door in sight until it closes.

How to Determine Proper Drainage for Your Yard

Checking that you have the proper drainage for your yard is more than simply checking that the downspouts aren't clogged. Proper sloping away from your home ensures that you don't have a soggy basement or standing water issues. To determine if you have proper drainage, check the slope from your foundation. Healthy drainage occurs when the slope is between 2 percent and 5 percent, which equates to 2 to 5 inches of drop-off for every 10 feet you measure as you move away from your home.


1. Pound the first garden stake into the ground immediately adjacent to your foundation.

2. Measure off 10 feet of string from the first stake walking directly away from the house.

3. Pound the second garden stake into the ground at the 10-foot distance.

4. Attach the string to the first stake and then the second stake.

5. Attach the string level to the string and adjust the string and stakes until the string level shows that the string is horizontal.

6. Measure the distance between the ground and the string on the first stake. Measure the distance between the ground and the string on the second stake.

7. Subtract the measurement of the first stake from the measurement of the second stake. Divide this number by 120, the number of inches in 10 feet. Then multiply by 100 to determine the percentage of the slope. If the percentage is less than 2 percent, you will need to regrade your yard to obtain the proper slope.

Things You Will Need

  • 2 garden stakes
  • Mallet
  • 12 to 15 feet of string
  • String level
  • Measuring tape