The positive impacts of gardening are almost endless, especially when it comes to our mental and physical health. These benefits fall into two main categories: “active” and “passive.”
Active benefits are all about getting to work and doing something in your garden, helping you clear your mind while getting your hands dirty. Gardening, and similar physical activity outside, does your body wonders.
Studies show spending more time outdoors leads to fewer long-term health problems, according to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. These benefits include improved heart health, flexibility, strength, and dexterity — all leading to better mental health.
Contrarily, backyard gardening’s passive benefits are about simply being in nature or outdoor space. It provides a positive distraction from stresses in your life.
Many studies show just being in nature has a positive impact on our stress levels and brain chemistry, according to the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.
Backyard gardening also helps you “feel alive,” letting you take your mind off work while giving you a new sense of purpose outside of the daily grind.
Backyard Gardening By Your Senses
The goal of backyard gardening is to create a yard and garden that reflect how you want to live outside. Doug recommends designing your mental health garden according to your five senses.
Sight: The simple sight of a breathtaking array of plants, an arrangement of your favorite flowers, or interesting objects in your garden is bound to boost your mood.
Taste: Growing your own fruits, veggies and herbs will provide you an incredibly rewarding harvest, in more ways than one. Not only are you able to enjoy the produce you have grown for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but you get the personal satisfaction of a job well done.
Hearing: Creating habitats for birds and other animals will add the sounds of nature to help you relax in your garden. Also, add wind chimes and water features that’ll produce soothing, stress-relieving sounds.
Touch: From the light, feathery textures of flower petals, to the rough surfaces of tree bark or bush stems, touch goes a long way in giving you a deeper sense of connection to your garden. This all ties back to a combination of active and passive benefits of backyard gardening, helping you establish a deeper sense of purpose.
Smell: Certain smells can bring back forgotten, happy memories. Add fragrant flowers and herbs to your garden bed, so you can literally “stop to smell the roses.”
Tips for Designing Your Mental Health Garden
When designing a garden, create “rooms” connected by meandering paths that let you get away from it all. These rooms provide mini spaces that you can retreat to, so you can rest, unwind, and feel restored.
However, your outdoor spaces don’t always need to be quiet and sedentary. If you enjoy being outside with others, creating gathering spaces in your yard is a great idea. And, if you have an outdoor hobby like exercising, painting, or writing, you can create spaces to do just that.
You shouldn’t get ahead of yourself and start creating a ginormous garden right off the bat. Start small, simple, and stress-free, and grow your garden out from there. Pick easy-to-grow plants that require little maintenance or start a simple vegetable garden in a raised bed.
So, start backyard gardening today — your mental health will be better off because of it.
Looking for more tips to breathe new life into your outdoor spaces? Check out Exmark’s Done-In-A-Weekend project series, featuring simple, budget-friendly DIY projects.
In Hour 1 of the Today’s Homeowner Radio Podcast, we’re offering solutions for fixing patchy grass, advice on installing a new window and more.
Rooting Out the Cause of a Patchy Lawn
Tim Kehoe is stumped by what’s causing the brown patches on his lawn.
In the 30 years that he’s lived in northern Wisconsin, he’s weeded, seeded and fertilized his lawn diligently. But, about five or six years ago, brown spots began to appear throughout his acre of lawn. And a drought last year only exacerbated the problem.
Now, he says, about 40 percent of his lawn is covered in dead spots that are an inch and a half deep. What can he do to get his green grass back?
Brown patchy spots on a lawn can appear for a number of reasons. We suspect a combination of fungal disease and dry weather conditions is the cause of his brown patches.
It’s also worth mentioning that when he’s seeded his yard in the past, Tim didn’t use the same type of grass seed throughout. So, because there are mixed types of grass, some might be more resilient to drought and diseases than others, which might be why not all of the grass is dying.
The only way to know for sure if a fungal disease is causing the brown patches is to send a soil sample to a lawn professional or a local extension office.
Once you get the results, you can treat the lawn properly and begin replenishing the grass. Your options include reseeding, transplanting sod or planting sod plugs. Go with a creeping type of grass, like Bermuda or St. Augustine, so it will spread to cover the bare spots.
Mildred Smith’s husband plans to replace a window with a new vinyl one that’s the same size. However, he’s not sure how to get the old window out of the opening in the wall.
“This is his first major DIY project — and I’m hoping he doesn’t mess it up. Do you have any tips to share?” she asks.
The most important thing to do is get the correct measurements for the window. The last thing you want is to have a new window that’s too big or small for the existing hole.
Also, get some extra wood for framing adjustments. A few 2-by-4 or 1-by-4 boards will come in handy.
When taking out the old window, carefully remove all the trim so you can reuse it. If you can see where the nails are, use a nail punch to push them through the trim. Doing this helps to keep the trim from splitting.
Now’s the time to make sure the window is properly sealed and insulated. Once the new window is in place, spray in some window and door expandable foam around the perimeter. Don’t use standard expanding foam because it can expand too much and make the window bow.
If the framing allows it, pack in some extra insulation as well. Anything you can do to insulate around the window will make a big difference in your heating and cooling costs.
Next, apply a window membrane to the frame. This peel-and-stick material provides a waterproof barrier between the window and the trim.
In Hour 2, learn how to remove rust from a steel roof, keep squirrels away from bird feeders and more.
Removing Rust from a Steel Roof
A caller tells us some of the panels on his six-year-old steel roof are starting to rust. He asks what can he do to remove the rust and prevent it from coming back.
The majority of metal roofs are set up to last 50 years, so you shouldn’t have any rust this early on. The rust could be a result of something scratching the paint and exposing the metal.
Always check with the manufacturer’s recommendation before trying to remove rust yourself. Most roofing manufacturers recommend oxalic acid to remove rust from metal roofs. Here’s how to do it:
Mix one part oxalic acid to five parts water. You can also use vinegar, hydrochloric acid, citric acid or muriatic acid.
Spray the solution onto the rust spots, and wipe it in with a rag using a circular motion. Don’t leave this solution on for more than five minutes.
Rinse the solution off once the rust stain is gone.
Once the rust is gone, prime and paint the metal roof according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to prevent it from returning.
When working on a roof, always follow the proper safety precautions. Only work in good weather conditions, wear non-slip boots to prevent falls and always use a ladder safely.
Keeping Squirrels Out of Bird Feeders
Tired of squirrels stealing your bird food? Here are some options to stop squirrels from raiding your bird feeder, so you can get back to bird watching.
If the squirrels are climbing up a pole, mix cayenne pepper and vaseline and coat the pole. The cayenne pepper’s strong, spicy odor will discourage the squirrels. Plus, the slippery vaseline will make it harder for the squirrels to climb the pole.
Another option for pole bird feeders is to install a baffle to prevent rodents from climbing the pole, and place feeders where rodents can’t get to them.
If you have a hanging bird feeder, place a dome over it. The squirrels can still slide down the wire, but the dome will block them from reaching the bird food.
If all else fails, offer the squirrels a decoy. Put out a second feeder with nuts or corn just for squirrels that’s easy for them to reach. By doing this, you can have the best of both worlds — watching the antics of squirrels while still being able to enjoy the birds at the same time.
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Bar-Clamp Assembly Tip — When you need an extra hand to hold a workpiece in place, reach for a couple of bar clamps.
Simply tighten one clamp onto the bottom, end of the piece, making sure the bars of the clamps face in opposite direction.
The clamps will hold the piece upright, freeing your hands to continue with the assembly.
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Sanitizing is simple when using GE Profile’s innovative Steam + Sani setting. The steam loosens tough soils before any cycle, so you get a complete wash with no pre-rinsing or soaking, and the high-temperature rinse reduces 99.999 percent of bacteria on dishes.
Interior filters and common touchpoints inside this GE Profile dishwasher are equipped with Microban technology that prevents bacteria growth, so the interior stays cleaner 24/7.
Inside, the UltraFresh System introduces clean air to reduce moisture and help prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria.
The dishwasher’s exterior features an advanced fingerprint-resistant stainless finish that lets you easily wipe away fingerprints and smudges to keep the outside of your dishwasher looking clean and new.
Strong Enough for Stuck-On Messes
This smart GE Profile dishwasher has a Piranha Hard Food Disposer, so you can use your dishwasher without pre-rinsing. Its stainless steel impellers rotate at 3,600 RPM to pulverize food particles and an anti-jamming design makes sure wash arms stay unclogged.
Forty powerful cleaning jets blast the silverware basket from top to bottom, to your utensils sparkle no matter which way you load them.
Once you get this GE dishwasher, you can say bye-bye to bottle brushes. The four bottle wash jets in the upper rack blast water and detergent directly to effectively wash hard-to-reach areas.
Enjoy next-level loading flexibility thanks to multi-position, fold-down tines in the lower rack. Adjust them into three different positions and configure your rack to accommodate any item.
This extra-large capacity dishwasher has enough space for 16 place settings and large dishware, making cleanup easy after large gatherings. Plus, an additional rack at the top of the dishwasher is the perfect place to wash spatulas, lids, kitchen gadgets and more.
Dry Boost with Fan Assists means you can ditch the dish towel. This feature gets hard-to-dry items like plastics up to three times drier than heated dry cycles using a fan that pulls moist air out, resulting in table-ready dishes.
This GE dishwasher’s Active Flood Protect gives you extra peace of mind. The water leak sensor detects when water is too high, and pumps it out until a safe level is reached.
Plus, this dishwasher has built-in WiFi, so you can monitor cycle status and automatically reorder detergent through the SmartHQ app.
You’ll need two hollow half foam balls for each garden sphere you want to create. I’m making two spheres at a time, so I’ve got four half foam balls.
First, use a hot knife foam cutter to make a 2- or 3-inch-diameter hole in the tops of two half foam balls. (These will serve as the spheres’ tops, in which you’ll pour the concrete — but we’ll get to that later.)
Then, set the other two half foam balls in planters or containers filled with dirt to hold them steady. (These will serve as the spheres’ bottoms.) Stick toothpicks into the rims of each bottom half foam ball and apply caulk all along the rims. The toothpicks keep the top foam ball from shifting, while the caulk creates a seal so no concrete mix seeps out.
Place the other two half foam balls on top of the bottom half balls, ensuring the toothpicks connect the bottom halves with their tops, all the way around. Wait for the caulk to dry. Most silicone caulk takes 24 hours to dry, but some fast-drying caulks only take one to three hours.
For easier removal, cut long triangles along the balls with the hot knife to help leverage the form off the concrete sphere.
Sand Any Imperfections
Once you remove all the foam, sand the entire sphere with 120- or 150-grit sandpaper for a smooth finish.
Sealing concrete is always a good idea — it will keep the garden spheres from getting moldy, and it will add a slight sheen. Use Quikrete Acrylic Cure and Seal once the concrete has hardened and the surface sheen has disappeared.
Now, all that’s left to do is decide where you want to show them off in your garden!
The first thing you should do is a visual inspection of the duct system. It’s easy to do if you’re comfortable getting up in your attic, but if you’re not, call your local HVAC dealer and let them inspect it.
Beyond that, you can turn your system on and feel for cool air in your attic. Make sure there are no obvious kinks in the system, tears or any boxes on the ductwork.
We’re hearing a lot about ductless mini-split systems. Where and when are they a good idea?
Josh: A ductless mini-split system is a central heating and cooling system that doesn’t use ductwork to distribute air throughout the home. Instead, it’s designed for single spaces.
They’re best used for sheds, garages, sunrooms, bonus rooms any space where you have one big space instead of multiple rooms.
If you want to enclose a part of your home, most likely, your current system is not big enough to cover that square footage.
That system was designed to cover the square footage of the home without that space, so if you decide to run ductwork to that space, it could cause problems across your home. This is why ductless mini-split systems are a great option for add-ons and enclosures.
What Happens on an A/C Service Call
I have always recommended to our listeners to have their A/C units serviced at least once a year, if not twice by a professional. Can you tell our listeners what an A/C pro does for a service like this?
Josh: We call this preventative maintenance on your heating and cooling system. It’s basically a check-up for your system, just like going to the doctor for an annual checkup.
An HVAC technician does a top-down inspection of your cooling and heating system. The technician checks the electrical components to make sure the unit has proper voltage and the wiring is secure.
They also clean the condenser coil, evaporator coil and condensate drain line so the system operates safely and more efficiently.
We recommend twice a year preventative maintenance. Once in the spring before the heat wave comes and then in the fall.
A Cautionary Tale
As home service workers, A/C pros are always going into people’s homes, so you never quite know what you’re going to get into.
Josh tells us this story as a reminder to always be aware of our surroundings:
Two of Josh’s HVAC technicians were sent to a service call, but the homeowner wasn’t home when they arrived. The homeowner told the technicians to just go ahead and start looking at the outdoor unit in the backyard.
As they’re walking to the back gate, they see a massive dog. They’re a little nervous, but thought, “Well, the homeowner said to go ahead, so the dog shouldn’t be a problem.”
When they entered the backyard, the dog was weary and unsure of the technicians, but thankfully it didn’t harm them.
A few minutes later, the homeowner gets there and is shocked the dog didn’t bite them.
Turns out, the homeowner mistakenly thought he safely secured his overprotective dog before the technicians had arrived.
“It just goes to show you have to always be aware of your surroundings,” Josh says.
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In Hour 1 of the Today’s Homeowner Radio Podcast, learn how to remove rusty bolts from concrete, get the most out of kitchen cabinet space and more.
Removing Rusty Bolts From Concrete
Cliff Dodd in Mobile, Ala., recently removed his pool diving board and pedestal base, but the severely rusty bolts are still embedded in the concrete.
“When I took dive off, the bolts were three rusted mounds. I couldn’t differentiate between the nuts, bolts and washers,” he says.
He wants to know, is there a way to remove the bolts, and if not, what’s the best way to prevent these old bolts from rusting and having a rust stain on the concrete in the future?
Removing bolts from concrete can be tricky, because they were put there in the first place to stay put. To remove them, use a center punch tool to drill a hole in the middle of the bolt. Then, drill it out as much of the rusty bolt as you can. After that, use a hammer and cold chisel to crush what’s remaining of the bolt inward to get it below the surface. This way you’re not disturbing the concrete around it too much.
Another option is to grind the bolts down below the surface as much as you can. To do this, use a disc grinder, and make sure you wear safety gloves and glasses while doing it. Hone the grinder back and forth until the bolt is about a quarter-inch below the surface.
To prevent the rusted bolts from staining the concrete, spray or brush on two to three coats of metal primer over the rusted bolt. This will seal off the rust and keep it from spreading into the concrete. To keep the paint from getting onto the concrete surface, cut a hole that’s the same size as the bolt in a paper plate and place it over the bolt area.
Next, cover the holes with a concrete patch. The challenge when working with existing concrete is getting the patch to match. For a uniform look, apply a concrete resurfacer over the entire slab.
Getting the Most Out of Your Cabinet Space
Dorene in Pennsylvania needs some advice on her kitchen cabinet storage.
She has pull-out shelves in her base cabinets, but half of them are broken. She’s ready to just remove them and install permanent half shelves.
Our advice: Don’t install stationary shelves; repair or replace the pull-out shelves.
When you look at the cubic feet of storage in a cabinet, you’re only using about 50 percent of it with stationary half shelves.
With a full pull-out shelf, you can use the most space and still have easy access to your items.
Repairing the pull-out shelves could be as simple as replacing the slides. Purchase new slides through the manufacturer.
To utilize even more cabinet space, consider installing a new pull-out shelf configuration. Home Depot offers many pull-out options, from corner cabinet pullouts to spice racks and more.
Before buying, take careful measurements of the depth and width of a cabinet. Retrofitted pieces of hardware are only expandable to a certain degree.
In Hour 2, we talk about the pros and cons of peel-and-stick wallpaper, the best paint for hardwood floors and more.
Pros and Cons of Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper
Peel-and-stick wallpaper is perfect for renters or homeowners who like to change their interior design often.
Because the adhesive is already applied, you don’t have to worry about making a mess with paste.
Before buying peel-and-stick wallpaper, consider the following:
Price: Prices for peel-and-stick wallpaper can vary. The cheaper it is, it will probably be more difficult to hang it smoothly. If you’re on a budget and going with the lowest price point, consider just using it for an accent wall. Also, keep in mind that the cheaper adhesive might damage your wall.
The higher in price you go, the easier the application and stronger the hold will be. Also, the more expensive types are easier to remove and leave behind less residue.
Location: Before putting up peel-and-stick wallpaper, take the room into consideration. A bathroom is very humid, so you need wallpaper with a strong adhesive. Otherwise, it might peel off by itself.
Also, because peel-and-stick wallpaper is made from plastic, heat can melt it. Don’t install it near a stove or a fireplace.
Our advice: Don’t buy the cheapest option. Buy mid-price peel-and-stick wallpaper and always check the reviews. If you find it costs the same as traditional wallpaper, you might as well hang regular wallpaper.
Painting a Wood Floor
Karen Pittman in Tennessee lives in an older home that needs new flooring. Her current floors are wood, but she says they’re not worth refinishing.
“Until we can afford new flooring, is there a paint that will withstand the pitter patter of my 100-pound puppy’s little feet?” she asks.
We don’t often recommend painting a wood floor, but if it’s your only option, you need to use the right kind of paint.
This time of year we spend more and more time outside. But for many of us It’s just downright HOT in July. So finding some shade for our outdoor living spaces is a priority. If you don’t just happen to have a perfectly positioned tree over your deck or patio, here are some ideas that may give you some relief from the Summer sun.
A pergola or arbor is the first thing many people think about when they want shade, but most of these structures don’t actually provide much of it on their own. Those vertically oriented boards across the top of them look really cool but they only block the sun at just the right angle. However, if you plant some climbing vines around the perimeter of the structure, in time they’ll create a canopy over the arbor that provides plenty of shade.
If early morning or late afternoon sun is a problem in your favorite spot, you may get some relief from a vertical hanging screen. The big decision here is whether you want to be able to move the screen when the sun isn’t intruding. Lattice panels are great for fixed screens but for a movable option, you might consider a rolling screen that works much like a window shade on a larger scale. I’ve even seen people make shade curtains from drop cloths with some success.
But by far the easiest and most popular way to produce shade is by hanging a fabric shade sail over the space. These are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors depending on your situation. The important thing to consider here is the tie-down locations. Be sure they’re sturdy enough to support the shade in the wind and allow some way to re-tension it since it will inevitably begin to sag over time.
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Pest-Proof Your Garbage Cans — Fill a spray bottle with ammonia and spray the outside of your garbage cans to repel raccoons, dogs and other critters from knocking over and rummaging through your trash. Also, liberally spray the ammonia on the ground around the garbage cans.
Improvised pole sander — A pole sander is great for sanding and smoothing lots of different surfaces, including walls, ceilings, decks and porches. However, if you don’t own a pole sander, you can make one from a sponge mop. Start by removing the sponge head from the mop and then wrap it in sandpaper. Screw the head back onto the mop and you’ve got a long-handled tool that’s ready for sanding.