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Most recent posting below. See other articles in the column to the right.

How to Get Rid of Deer Before They Devour Your Yard and Garden

(ARA) -Springtime means sunshine, blooms, birdsong - and the dreaded "deer drama" that will inevitably wreak havoc in your beautiful backyard this season. Deer are now a permanent part of our landscapes, brazenly entering our yards and eating our gorgeous gardens. They are majestic animals, and beautiful to look at - from a distance. Up close, trampling and tasting your tulips, they're just not a welcome sight. 

Springtime is when deer damage is most noticeable, particularly as plants awaken from months of dormancy and prepare to bloom. Deer are the poster critters of natural adaptability. As suburbia has encroached on their wild habitat, deer have adjusted easily, finding plenty to eat in residential landscapes. 

"In the early part of the 20th century, the deer population in the U.S. was less than half a million animals," says Greg Ecsedy, owner of Bobbex Inc., which manufactures deer repellent. "Today, estimates place the deer population at between 15 million and 20 million animals that cause about $1 billion a year in damage to farms, gardens, yards and timber." 

"We know that deer will eat more than 500 different types of plants, so there's a good chance that something you've planted will appeal to them, and you can bet they'll eat it," Ecsedy says. 

Since deer need to consume a high volume of calories to survive - bucks weighing 125 to 250 pounds need 4,000 to 6,000 calories per day - their foraging can cause significant damage to suburban landscapes. Deer seldom travel alone, so a small herd can devastate a neighborhood quickly. Deer's close proximity to people over the course of time has dulled their natural fear, so it's quite common to see multiple deer nonchalantly noshing away - right outside your window. 

Deer's adaptability stems from their capacity to learn. Homeowners can defend their landscape by putting deer's natural learning ability to good use. Deterrents that convince the deer your yard is no longer a desirable dining destination can successfully protect your home environment from these foraging foes. 

Several methods can be effective in deterring deer, including the use of repellents like all-natural Bobbex Deer Repellent. Common solutions include: 

* Deer Repellent - Deer rely heavily on their sense of smell to assess the desirability of an area for feeding, and to alert them to danger. Disrupting their sense of smell can disrupt their sense of security, which is why scent-based repellents often prove effective. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station gave Bobbex a 93 percent protection index - second only to a fence, at 100 percent, for effectiveness. The repellent uses ingredients that blend the scents of putrescent eggs, garlic, fish, clove oil and other proteins, so it smells and tastes awful to deer. It's environmentally friendly and safe for animals and your family. 

Apply it in almost any weather, it dries clear, won't wash off after heavy rain or burn plants and grass. Bobbex Deer Repellent is available online at and in garden retail stores. To learn more, visit 

* Deer Deterrent Devices - Motion-activated noise makers and lights can scare deer off for a short time. Deer's movement in the yard can activate motion lights at night, scaring them away, during the day you can use motion-activated sound. It's likely, however, that deer will become acclimated to both tactics over time, and the sound and motion might not have an effect on them. 

* Deer Fence - Fencing is considered the only surefire way to keep deer out of a garden, but keep in mind that deer have been known to jump 10-foot fences, and many communities restrict the height of fencing. You may not be able to put up a fence high enough to keep deer away - plus, fencing might not be practical and can be costly. 

* Deer Resistant Flowers - Another option is to grow plants that deer don't like. A hungry deer will eat just about anything, but you may have some success by planting deer-resistant flowers and plants like catmint, hellebore, yarrow, fuzzy lamb's ear, and cleome near the plants you want to protect. 

"Gardening on a rural acreage with a large deer population proved challenging in all seasons until we discovered Bobbex Deer Repellent," says garden writer Jan Patrick. "We like that the same product we used to protect our shrubs and dwarf conifers in winter also effectively protects the summer garden. The fertilizer value of Bobbex is an extra plus."

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Selecting A Landscape Architect

Often a little change in your environment can mean a lot of happiness. Substantial change may also end up being more profitable. This is often the case with landscape investments. Consider doing what not only attracts you when it comes to creating an outdoor area, but the added impact landscape has - higher property values, a more desirable neighborhood, and a rewarding finished product that is functional and beautiful.

Landscape architecture is the profession that encompasses the analysis planning, design, management, and stewardship of outdoor space and land. Activities of a landscape architect cover a wide range, including creating public parks and parkways, site-planning for corporate office buildings, reclaiming blighted areas, designing towns and creating private residential areas. Before you enlist the services of a landscape architect, check out the tips below and the Guide to Jobs in Landscape Architecture and Related Fields.

First, think about what you want and how you will use your landscape. Formal entertaining, herb gardens and playgrounds are all possibilities. Consider your home's style. An English Cottage-style garden may look of place in front of a modern home. To find the right look for you, go through pictures in magazines and view gardens in your neighborhood.

To find a reputable local landscape architect, ask a neighbor whose yard you admire for the name of the contractor they have worked with. Credentials are important; membership in a professional association is a good indication that someone is qualified and well-trained. Landscape architects must be licensed to practice in 46 states. Licensure is obtained through education, experience, and by passing a rigorous professional exam. Landscape architects may also belong to reputable professional associations with membership requirements.

Make a realistic budget. One rule of thumb is to invest ten percent of your property's worth; this figure should include all design and installation costs, as well as plant materials. If this estimate seems steep, consider that appropriate landscape improvements are estimated to return 100 to 200 percent of their cost when a house is sold. Landscaping is the only home improvement that can boast this kind of return on an initial investment.

Interview a few landscape architects. If you've interviewed home contractors or architects, it's a similar process. A good designer will ask you about your preferences, what you will use the space for, how much money and time you would like to allot to the design. A good designer will also walk around the site, take pictures and measurements. Ask about maintenance. How much time and money will you have to invest in the installation and the maintenance?

Start early. This winter season is the best time to consult with a designer. This way you'll be all ready to go when spring weather arrives. This way you'll be ready to go when spring weather arrives

Designing is only the first step to a dream landscape. Deciding how to install the materials is the next. A lot depends on how complicated the plan is. Obviously, moving large amounts of earth and installing a drainage system is not a do-it-yourself project. Your landscape architect will advise you and can recommend reputable contractors to do the work that you either can't or don't want to do.

One job that homeowners can do themselves, saving a lot of money, is to buy and install their own plants. Some wholesale nurseries are now selling to the public, particularly for large purchases. Many offer free delivery with a minimum order. Home improvement centers often offer near-wholesale prices everyday, although plant care and quality can vary. To ensure hearty, high-quality plants, buy from a reputable nursery. Also, plan to prepare and treat your property's soil with sand, loam, or compost. Install the plants according to your plan so they will continue to thrive.

If you aren't an expert gardener, you'd probably be well-advised to pay your landscape architect or designer to supervise the contractor's installation of plant materials. You want to be sure the plants installed are those specified and the plans are followed to the letter.

After your landscaping project is finished, the fun really begins. There's nothing like watching a garden mature to bring out the green thumb in even the most city-fied of us. Gardening has become one of America's favorite hobbies and is widely recommended for stress reduction. Professional design also means maintenance can be kept to a minimum, while the enjoyment lasts year-round.

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How To Prune Bushes

It must be a frightening thing to the new gardener to stand in front of a shrub, one which he or she painstakingly chose, planted, fed, watered and has fretted over continuously, with the expressed purpose to prune it. Prune it! What a hideous thought. To cut into a bush you love is tantamount to cutting off your child’s fingers. But truly it isn’t. It’s more like giving that adorable child a haircut and as we all know that never hurt anyone. That is exactly as you should approach the daunting task of pruning a bush. It’s merely a painless haircut.

With that in mind let us go over a few things to show you how to pruning shrubs without fear.

The cutting tools used should be sharp, well-made and in good working order. Misaligned or dull blades make for bad, torn cuts which in turn can cause problems for the plant. In order to gain confidence starting with small hand pruners is best. These are easy to use and gives you the best control. For thick branches, loppers, which are just really big hand pruners, are great to use. Hedge trimmers are excellent for bushes set in straight, perfect uniform lines. Cutting off an inch at a time, stepping well back, looking, then returning to cut another inch off is the way to ensure you don’t cut too much off or are working lopsided.

Pruning away dead twigs is the easiest thing to do to regenerate a sickly looking bush. It will open it up to sun and air and in no time it will start looking healthier. Simply follow the dead branch down to the base and snip it off at a 45 degree angle. Make certain the pruners are right side up.

Where branches are too long and you want a tidier look cut the branch back to the length you desire just above an outward facing leaf bud, again at a 45 degree angle. This will encourage it to branch outward instead of inwardly which would crowd the other branches and cause dead twigs in the center again.

To check the growth of a shrub, meaning to keep it from getting too big for its home, prune the tips of each branch back a few inches every spring to an outward facing bud. Do this after the new spring growth in the case of evergreens or after it flowers in the case of Azaleas or Rhododendrons. Cutting off the new spring growth or spent flower will keep it looking neat and also encourage it to become bushier. If it is overgrown cut back further or remove one or two branches entirely to open up the bush. Do only one or two at most in any given season to keep from shocking the plant.

As for bushes that are completely overgrown to the point you think they will never look good again, think again. Some may be to their age limit and nothing but cutting them all down to the ground will help. Why? Because a plant that feels threatened usually gets a new will to live. Yes, it may seem strange but it is true. Some bushes may die of shock if cut entirely to the ground but as you didn’t think much of them, no loss, right? But others just get a new shot of the equivalent of flora adrenalin. They wake up, start growing and looking better than ever. Plants are wonderfully tenacious. Think dandelion and you’ll understand.

So, there you have it, a guide to pruning most bushes hopefully without you shaking in your garden boots. It truly isn’t that hard and even if you made a “fatal” mistake, just learn from it and try again. Plants for the most part are forgiving. Much more so than people when you give them a bad haircut.

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How to Grow Your Own Vegetables as Earth-Friendly as Possible

(ARA) - There was a time when it was the norm to go out in the yard and pull fresh vegetables up from the soil. At some point over the years, we moved from the goodness of home-grown vegetables toward processed foods and microwave dinners. Now consumers are becoming more aware of the financial value of growing their own vegetables, and how doing so can bolster the health of their families and of the earth.

Vegetable gardening might sound intimidating, but new technologies can make your thumb greener than ever. Combined with good old-fashioned growing techniques, your garden can be healthy and yield a good crop with less effort than you'd imagine - all while being good for the earth. Here are some tips for a garden that is doubly green.

Water, water everywhere, but not too much
* A fine balance needs to be struck when it comes to watering your vegetable garden, especially during drought conditions. You want your plants to get adequate moisture, but overwatering can be bad for plants and a wasteful use of a precious natural resource. Because it's better for both your crops and the environment, careful water usage is essential to being a truly green gardener.

Installing an irrigation system is a good way to keep water usage at the ideal levels. Plus, you don't have to plan a schedule around when you need to water. There are user-friendly, affordable solutions like Mister Landscaper's new Drip Irrigation Vegetable Kit, which connects to your outdoor spigot. It's a great way to ensure that your plants get the water they need, without wasting or over watering. The kit is drought approved in most areas and available at Lowe's in the plumbing department. Watering timers can also make the job of watering even easier. Keep in mind that it's best to water in the early morning, when the sun is lower in the sky, for 30 to 60 minutes, every other day. For more information about watering vegetable gardens, go to

One man's garbage is another's fertilizer
* Ever feel guilty about throwing out vegetable and fruit peelings, rinds or scraps? Your intuition might just be telling you that there's a better way to handle those leftovers. Composting is a great way to make use of organic matter that might otherwise just get thrown away.

Building a compost heap is relatively easy, and it will keep on giving back to your garden and the environment. The four necessary ingredients for composting, according to California's "CalRecycle" program, are nitrogen (from sources like grass clippings or those throwaway veggie scraps), carbon (from sources like sawdust or twigs), water and air. Once your compost is at the ideal level of decomposition (it will be uniformly dark brown and crumbly), spread it on your garden to give plants a nutrient boost.

Get growing - organically
* From the moment you start planning a garden, think organic. The most basic - and fun - choice of all is deciding which plants you'll grow. Choose organic seeds and starters so that you know you're buying into an earth-friendly business venture. There's the added bonus of knowing that your plants won't be tainted with harmful chemicals.

When it comes to maintaining your garden, you'll probably need things other than just compost. Look for products that are recognized as organic by respected organizations like the USDA or the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) - you'll be able to find an ever-growing supply of products like pest repellent or soil amendments.

Growing your own vegetables at home has many benefits: it saves money, allows you to control what your food is exposed to and provides a fun and easy activity that the whole family can participate in. And when you follow these green gardening principles, you'll be doing something good for the earth, too.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Bird Proof Your Home For Spring

Spring is a busy time for birds. Warmer temperatures increase food sources, and birds are on the look out for new nesting spots and mates. Whether they are returning from a winter migration or are resident birds weary from a long winter haul, they have a lot of work to be done before autumn.

Birds are in survival mode in the spring. In order to get through the next winter, they will be searching for spots that provide the elements needed to survive. Most homes and gardens provide the three elements necessary for a birds’ survival: food, water and shelter.

Whether you anticipate birds returning to your home, or are dealing with a pest bird problem now, addressing these three elements will make it easy to bird proof a home for the spring. Taking away food or water sources, and blocking off ideal nesting spots like dryer vents and eaves will help send pest birds packing.

Doing a quick check around the home in the beginning stages of spring can mean the difference between successfully deterring pest birds or not. Have you had a recurring problem with nesting birds? If yes, treating these spots with deterrents before the birds return will yield better results than waiting until they have come back. Once they begin to build a nest, birds will be more persistent about keeping the spot.

Common places pest birds like to nest include:

* Dryer vents

* Eaves

* Open attics

* Garages, barns or boathouses

* Under roof tiles

* Under air-condition units

Checking these areas for nesting materials will clue you in as to whether this may be a problem spot. Birds like to nest high, so check beams, ledges and rafters. If there are nesting materials, a cleanup is essential. Bird droppings and nests can host disease and parasites. A good cleaning will not only protect you and your family, but also eliminate scents that help a bird identify their old nest.

There are many different bird deterrents available in today’s market that can be used for a wide variety of problems. Bird deterrents usually fit into four categories:

Visual Bird Deterrents

Visual deterrents are meant to be seen by birds, to frighten or scare them away from open areas. Visual deterrents will have shiny reflective surfaces or mock predator features. Visual bird deterrents include Mylar flash tape, scare eye diverters and balloons. There are also decoys like owls available. These items work best when hung right in front of a problem area. When the bird fly’s towards the spot, they will see the visual deterrents and get confused or frightened, and want to avoid the area.

Sound Deterrents for Birds

Sound deterrents use recorded bird calls to deter pest birds from large open spaces. A mixture of predator calls and distress calls can be used to alert birds in the surrounding area of danger. Most sound deterrents are weatherproof and designed for outdoor use. These are ideal to use when you have a large open space to treat. Sound deterrents include the Bird Chase Super Sonic.

Physical Bird Deterrents

Physical deterrents are used to block or prevent birds from gaining access to the area they desire. Physical deterrents include bird netting and ledge products like the Bird Spike 2000. Bird netting is installed as a screen to block birds from entering areas. Bird spikes, bird slopes and bird deterrent gel are all used on ledges to prevent birds from landing.

Liquid Bird Repellents

There are also a few liquid repellents used for discouraging birds. Pest control companies can work with fogging machines, or misting units to deter birds from large open spaces. A non-toxic grape extract that irritates a bird’s mucous membranes is used in these two types of devices. If you have a large tree in your backyard where hundreds of birds were congregating, it’s best to call out a pest control company to fog or mist the tree to repel the birds. The grape extract is safe for both birds, and humans.

There are also live bird traps, and a few other types of bird deterrents available. Knowing what type of bird you are having a problem with, and considering the area that is being affected will help in choosing the best product for the situation. Contacting a bird control company like Absolute Bird Control or Bird-B-Gone can also help ensure that you have chosen the right method.

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How To Care For A Garden Pond

A garden pond is a truly lovely feature to have. Many people enjoy sitting in their garden, relaxing and watching the fish swim through their pond. It's a great thing to do in order to clear your mind and just have a little 'down time.' But, how do you truly care for your garden pond in order to ensure a long time of enjoyment from it? Here are some great tips that will tell you how to do just that.

Pumps and Filters

One of the most important things you can do to keep your pond up and running is to purchase a pump and filter which can be purchased easily, either online or at most aquatic centres. This is also extremely important if you have fish in your pond. Without a pump and filter, which cleans and keeps the water moving, your pond water will become dirty, full of algae and bacteria and stagnant. A pump moves the water, constantly recycling the water that is in the pond, while the filter cleans the water and ensures that the water is clear and a happy habitat for pond fish. The most important part of the filters job is to act as a mini sewage system for the pond. In simple terms the media within the filter creates a huge surface area, which becomes home to many millions of helpful bacteria.

Without a pump and filter, some fish will die. Koi fish are a good example of fish that really need the perfect environment to live.

Surface Issues

Another way to care for your garden pond is to ensure that all leaves, branches or twigs are promptly removed from the surface of the water. Many times people place their ponds in backyards or gardens that have trees and shrubs. When you do this, the wind can easily blow debris into your pond. Ensure that your fish are happy and cozy and that your water stays clean by removing this debris. You can utilize a net in order to do this, but most people simply scoop it out with their hands.

Water Change

After the winter, it is usually recommended that pond owners to a partial water change. This will remove the stale, sometimes dirty and murky water and replace it with cleaner, healthier water. You shouldn't remove all of the water in your pond. Most people do about 20% to 50% in order to maintain a clean and healthy pond. Simply ensure that you do not damage the fish when you do your water change. Always leave enough water for them to swim comfortably in and so they will not get lodged on rocks or other objects in the pond and be above the surface of the water.

Taking care of your pond is very important if you plan to enjoy it for a long time. Most people put a lot of time and money into getting their ponds in the first place, so utilizing these tips and ideas for caring for your pond will help you protect your investment.

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Tips for Exterior House Painting

Is the exterior of your house starting to look old and worn down? It may be time to paint the exterior of your house. Unfortunately exterior painting happens to be one of the more expensive and time consuming home improvement projects. And generally homeowners have to endure an exterior painting job every 6-8 years, depending on the house and siding. Before you begin this daunting project, make sure to plan accordingly and make all necessary preparations.

Every home improvement project requires some planning. In fact, the planning and preparation process is one of the most important steps. One of the very first things you should do when having the exterior of your home painted is to determine if there is any prep work that needs to be done prior to painting. This is when you should be repairing any rotted siding, window sills, hand railing, or window and door trim. If you don't want to make the repairs yourself then your paint company should be able to provide a quote that includes replacing your siding and trim. However, it may be necessary to call up your siding professional if your project involves replacing a significant amount of siding.

Second, you should take the time to decide if you want to change the color of your house. Doing so can give your home a totally new and updated appearance. However, you want to make sure that the colors you choose fit into your neighborhood and compliment the colors that your home already has. For instance, you don't want to paint your house hot pink when all of the surrounding houses are light pastels. Making your home stick out like that can make it a less desirable home if it were put on the market. Also, it's important to pick a color that blends well with your plants, landscaping, foundation, and driveway. Keep in mind, changing the color of your house is often more expensive because more coats are required to cover the old color.

Third, decide on the technique that will be used to paint your house; hand brushed or sprayed. Most paint companies would prefer to have it sprayed because it is faster and easier. However, certain homes would benefit greatly from having the home hand painted. Such homes would include those that are older, those with wood siding, and homes that haven't been painted in a very long time. Painting by hand provides a thicker coat. It also penetrates deeper into the wood and crevasses which gives your siding protection from water penetration. Keep in mind; due to the fact that hand brushing is more time consuming you should expect to pay more for the services.

Lastly, you will want to carefully select a reputable paint company to do your exterior work. I suggest that you shop around and get a least three different price quotes because there are a lot of price variations for large exterior jobs. However, price shouldn't be the only deciding factor. The quality of the company is also very important because if the job is done poorly then it will need to be redone faster then you know which will end up being more expensive. So don't just choose a painter because they are inexpensive. Ask your friends and family for a reference before you even begin searching for a company. If someone you trust had a good experience with a company then the chances of you enjoying their work is higher.

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Septic Tank Basics

Septic tanks are a necessity for many who live in rural areas, and newly developed areas that don't yet have sewer systems in place. This article will attempt to inform you of the basics to give you a better understanding of what they are and what is required to maintain them.

A septic tank is a concrete, plastic, or fiberglass tank placed under ground with lines running from the septic tank that are called leach lines, these lines take away the excess water and deposit it under ground to drain thru the rocks and other under ground material to future purify the waste water once it leaves the tank. The septic tank will have more than one chamber. The first chamber is larger than the second, and it is where most of the solids known as sludge, settle. The second somewhat smaller chamber is where the waste water is further purified. A septic tank is used in areas where no city sewers are available. They are used the same as a sewer system to dispose of waste water from bathrooms, showers and all other drains in the home. Anaerobic bacterial digestive activity on the sludge breaks it down; once this happens the sludge becomes stabilized and does not rot anymore. The somewhat purified water then moves to the second chamber. The digestion and settlement of the organic matter continues. The time in the second chamber is less than the first. This is where the waste water leaves the tank and is directed to the drain fields where any impurities that remain get decomposed naturally.

Some septic systems use a pump to help move the water depending on the way the land lays around the septic tank. After several years, in most cases 3 to 5, the septic tank will have to be pumped to remove any sludge remaining so there is enough space to allow the digestive system to work as designed. The waste water that is pumped from the tank is released into waste treatment plants or sludge drying beds.

Maintenance of a septic system is very important and is not that hard to understand. If a system fails, the tank is most times not the problem. Usually the drain lines become plugged because the soil gets full of solids and the water does not move through it. This can be from several reasons; the tank could need to be pumped or many times the problem could be lint from a washing machine. This happens occasionally, and can be a real headache trying to correct. Most lint does not settle to the tank bottom and remains in suspension to be carried out into the drain field where over time will clog the soil. However, there is a solution. An inline filter may be used to capture lint and other items. Then only filter replacement is required to get your system back into operation. Many times a large family will do several loads of laundry in a short period of time and flood the standard septic system. The solution here is to spread out the washing with only one or two loads a day.

There are other things to consider in the maintenance of a septic tank system. Dispose chemicals and other liquid materials properly. Gasoline, paint thinners, motor oil, varnish, and other chemicals that contain active substances can ruin your septic tank walls and can cause hazard to groundwater as well. Make sure you dispose them properly and away from your septic tank system. Also, grease can easily clog in your septic tank so make sure you steer away from disposing them in your toilet. Differentiate the toilet from garbage cans. Cigarette butts and filters facial tissues, paper towels, coffee grounds, sanitary napkins, disposable diapers, tampons, cat litter, and other solid waste must be disposed in your garbage bins and not on your toilet. They clog to your septic tank easily.

Be smart and responsible when maintaining your septic system. The septic system is one very important operation and you do not want it to fail.

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