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April gardening checklist
April 23rd 2013
In some areas, April brings the first signs of winter's end; in others, it's the gateway to hot, summery weather. But in most climates, it's the magical month when gardens start to come to life.
Remember to adjust gardening tips to fit your own growing season — but most important of all, wait until the last frost date to put tender plants in the ground.
Here comes the sun, which means that greenhouses are starting to heat up. On warm days, be sure your greenhouse is well-ventilated. Give more regular care to greenhouse plants by stepping up your watering and fertilizing schedule. Also make sure to check your greenhouse thoroughly for pests.
Even beginning gardeners can brighten up a terrace, patio, deck or windowsill with containers tumbling with flowers.
Don't let your garden dry out before it even hits full stride. Get into the rhythm of watering regularly early in the season to ensure happy, healthy plants.
Carpenters and carpenter wannabes: Lots of garden projects are easy enough for beginners.
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Try to devote one weekend of each spring month to building projects, and beautify your garden with simple or elaborate embellishments.
Want the greenest lawn on the block? Well, start now or forever hold your peace with a less-than-lush lawn.
Planting trees and flowers
In some areas, the time has passed for transplanting large shrubs and trees, but in many climates you can still plant deciduous and evergreen trees, shrubs, perennials, hardy annuals and rock-garden perennials such as yarrow, rock jasmine and small dianthus.
In most areas, April is the real start of the outdoor vegetable garden, especially perennials such as asparagus, although it's probably still not warm enough to plant heat-loving crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers and squash.
Shearing, pruning and grooming
From now until late spring, the time is ripe for shearing and pruning evergreens of all kinds.
Mulch and compost
Don't neglect the soil in which your garden grows. Mulch and compost add valuable nutrients, as well as protection from heat and drying out.
Give a little love to your houseplants, and they may give back to you. For example, did you know spider plants help to purify the air by removing carbon monoxide?
April home-maintenance checklist
April 22nd 2013
Finally, it’s spring. To celebrate, do a few improvements indoors — tweaking your home’s energy efficiency and getting doors to operate smoothly — and then get outdoors to do some work that shows off your home’s exterior. Install a new screen door or repair an old one. Maintain fireplaces and gas appliances while avoiding the scammers who pop out of the woodwork like bugs this season. Repair fences. Remove stubborn stains from concrete garage floors, patios and sidewalks. And try one or all of our eight cheap and fun ways to give your home’s entrance some exciting spring sparkle.
Install a programmable thermostat
Energy is wasted when you push up the temperature when the room feels cold or turn down the heat manually when it’s too warm. You can save about $180 a year with one of these devices.
A programmable thermostat lets you set the temperature in your home, then leave it. The most useful products give you options for establishing different temperatures for day and night (62 at night, for example, and 65 during the day), weekdays and weekends (keep the house cooler while you’re away at work and warmer when you’re home) and also let you turn the heat way down during vacations without changing your daily settings. (Learn more and find out how to get a federal tax credit and possible rebates in this Energy Star article on programmable thermostats)
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Cut energy expenses further
While you are in the mood to reduce energy consumption, call your electric utility and/or your heating-fuel company to ask about financial incentives for installing energy-efficient appliances or improvements. Some utilities subsidize the cost of improvements: adding insulation or weatherstripping, or installing that programmable thermostat, for example. Others give rebates for purchasing Energy Star appliances such as water heaters, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, heat pumps and fans. Also, remember to take the federal tax credit for such purchases. See the entire list at the Energy Star site. Senior citizens may qualify for additional subsidies.
Look for additional savings: Many states offer additional incentives. Find programs in your state on this map, at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.
Straighten out problem doors
Walk around the house with a can of silicone lubricant and a rag, trying each door. If a door is sticky, open it partway and pull the hinge pin out. The pin is found in the center of the hinge, in the joint between the plate on the wall and the one on the door. Lightly oil the pin and the hole into which it will fit, using the rag to stop drips. Drop the pin back in place.If a pin is stuck in a hinge, use a hammer and small screwdriver to knock it all the way out. Sand off accumulated oil, dust and rust from pin and lightly lubricate it before reinstalling. You may have to do this with both pins.
Repair or replace screen doors
Get ready for bug season by hanging screen doors. You can repair torn screens yourself:
If the door sags, see if you can tighten it by replacing missing or corroded hinge screws. If that doesn’t work, or if the door is bent or battered, purchase and install a new aluminum screen door.
Install a chimney cap
You could send out an invitation to birds and squirrels to come nest in the warmth of your chimney, or you could install a cap to protect the stack from dripping rain and uninvited critters. A cap, sometimes called a “crown,” shelters the opening while it lets smoke escape. A cap prevents wind from entering your home and helps create a good draft that feeds your fireplace or stove with oxygen. Metal chimneys usually come with caps, but if yours doesn’t have one, ask the manufacturer for advice. Caps are not appropriate for all chimneys. Ask your chimney sweep to inspect the chimney each year for damage and to advise you on whether to install a cap.
Beware chimney-sweep scams
Yes, you should have your chimney swept by a professional to remove flammable creosote that builds up inside the flue from wood smoke. (If you don’t use the stove or fireplace much, you can wait two to three years between cleanings.) But not every chimney sweep is right out of “Mary Poppins.” Door-to-door scammers prey on homeowners, dangling deliciously low prices, then pressuring owners into “repairing” expensive but fictitious problems. Protect yourself by using a chimney sweep with an established business in your town. Check a company’s track record through the Better Business Bureau and locate certified sweeps at the National Chimney Sweep Guild or the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
Have gas-burning furnaces and appliances inspected
Every year a licensed gas technician should clean out dust and debris and examine the appliance for safety, efficiency and repairs. Find a repair pro through your gas company or utility or search the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association's site.
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