4 questions to ask before pruning a tree
Since pruning trees can be tricky and even dangerous, this job typically requires the expertise of a professional arborist. If you’re thinking about doing your own pruning, there are four questions you should ask yourself first.
1. Is it necessary?
There are several reasons to prune a tree, including removing dead and damaged branches that are at risk of falling. Pruning a tree simply to improve its appearance should be avoided. After all, each cut you make is a wound that takes time to heal and puts the tree at risk of infection.
2. Is it safe?
Never prune a tree that’s within 10 feet of a power line. It’s best to leave this extremely hazardous work to a professional, and in some places, it’s the law. Similarly, cutting large branches can lead to serious accidents and injuries if you don’t use the right tools and technique.
3. What equipment is needed?
To safely prune a tree, you need to use specialized tools. Pruning shears, loppers, and saws may all be required. Make sure your tools are clean and sharp to facilitate the tree’s recovery. You’ll also need personal protective equipment including safety goggles, a helmet, work gloves, and possibly a harness.
4. What’s the best way to proceed?
Before you start pruning a tree, analyze its structure and determine where you’ll make each cut. Most importantly, you should limit your alterations and respect the natural shape of the tree. This is the best way to keep your tree healthy and improve its appearance.
If you don’t feel comfortable pruning your own trees, contact an arborist in your area.
Looking for great deals on great stuff? Try estate sales
If you’re an antique lover, a bargain hunter looking to upgrade your home, or just interested in unique finds, an estate sale might be a great way to spend a Saturday.
For the uninitiated, an estate sale is the sale or auction of the contents of a house — usually to liquidate the belongings of a recently deceased person. Just about everything is for sale — furnishings, home decor, appliances, artwork, and more.
- To find nearby estate sales, visit online estate sales like estatesales.net, check websites for estate sale companies to see if they advertise any upcoming events, and check the local newspaper. Word of mouth might also help you find great estate sales, too.
- Before you go, think about what your house can reasonably fit — if you’re in the market for a new-to-you washing machine, you’ll be pretty annoyed if you bring an estate sale bargain home to find out that it doesn’t fit.
- Estate sales are competitive, so arrive early to get in line and make sure you have the first pick of the best items. It also might pay to be around at the end of the day, when liquidators often bundle items together at deep discounts for quick sales.
- If you’re in the market for antiques, make sure you can tell a real item from a fake one — you’ll be disappointed if you get home and realize that you overpaid for a fake.
- Test all electronics before you buy them. There are no refunds in estate sales, so that broken-down stand mixer will be yours forever.
- Make sure you bring multiple payment methods. Family-run sales may be cash-only, while professional estate sale companies can usually take cards.
- Bring a car that’s big enough to take your new treasures home — estate sales don’t offer delivery.
- Be respectful of the home — someone’s beloved relative or spouse may have passed away recently, so don’t trespass on off-limits areas, use the home’s bathrooms, or bring small children who require a lot of supervision.
Replace worn bicycle parts each spring
Early spring is a good time to replace bike parts that may be worn out so you can start the new season with critical components in top-notch shape. Here are six things you should do now.
Your tires: The knobs on mountain bike tires lose their edges, which reduces traction. Road bike tires, especially rear tires, lose their crown, making them feel clunky when transitioning in and out of corners. All tires age. Rubber gets harder.
The chain: Measure the chain stretch to determine whether your chain needs to be replaced, or alternatively, you can make the replacement part of your annual routine. An old chain is more prone to breakage, shifts poorly, and accelerates wear on the bike’s chain rings.
Check the cables: Cables are the wire cores, and housings are the outer covers through which the cables run. Your first indication of failing cables may be a “snap” followed by a loss of tracking or shifting.
Brake pads: Rim brake pads harden over time, diminishing braking efficiency. They also pick up bits of grit that grind against the rims. Disc brake pads pick up junk, which can gouge rotors.
Replacement pads come in many styles, including those for severe conditions and for specific types of rims, such as ceramic-coated and carbon fiber.
Cleats: Worn cleats are difficult to clip in and out and may release unexpectedly. New ones should be installed early in the season when your daily mileage is low.
4 foolproof vegetables for first-time gardeners
Gardening can seem intimidating for first-timers. Here are a handful of vegetables you can easily grow without much experience.
1. Carrots are hardy and grow well in cool conditions. They can be harvested in late July for baby carrots or after the first frost for large, sweet-tasting ones. Orange varieties are the most reliable growers.
2. Lettuce tolerates shade better than other vegetables and grows fast. You can enjoy a weekly harvest all summer long when sown in succession. Plenty of varieties exist, including romaine, iceberg, butterhead, and Batavia.
3. Radishes grow fast and tolerate cool weather. These low-maintenance plants can be grown in small gardens, making great gap fillers. As a bonus, their strong odor tends to deter pests.
4. Bush beans germinate quickly and aren’t susceptible to many diseases. Moreover, a small patch of bush beans can yield an impressive amount of produce — up to one pound per plant! Bush beans also return nitrogen to the soil to keep your garden healthy.
Pick up the seeds you need at your local nursery or garden center.
Expert tips for starting seedlings indoors
To ensure a productive harvest, gardeners in northern climates must start certain vegetable seedlings indoors four to eight weeks before the last frost. Here are a few tips for getting a head start on your garden.
• Buy seeds from a reputable seller
• Use a specialized seed-starting mix
• Purchase or reuse containers with proper drainage
• Plant seeds at the depth listed on the seed packet
• Prepare for some losses and plant more seeds than you need
• Water frequently but sparingly to keep the soil moist but not water-logged
• Use heat mats and tray covers to speed up germination
• Place sprouted seedlings in a sunny location or under grow lights
• Promptly transplant seedlings that outgrow their original pots
• Once the seedlings are big enough, gradually introduce them to outdoor temperatures to get them ready for transplanting
Growing plants from seed take time and dedication but are extremely rewarding.
4 steps to help you choose the right camp
Although there are still a few months left in the school year, it’s time to start thinking about where to send your child to camp on summer break. Follow these steps to choose a camp to make your child’s summer enjoyable and memorable.
1. Determine your needs
Would you prefer to enroll your child in a day or summer camp? Does your child need to be dropped only off for a few days, or must they be there for most of the summer? These two questions will help you narrow down the list of potential camps.
2. Talk to your child
Your child knows best what they want. For example, ask your child what activities they’d like to try this summer, like cooking, archery, and science experiments. The activities offered can vary greatly from camp to camp.
3. Narrow down your options
Research and identify camps that meet your needs and will appeal to your kids. Rule out camps that are too far away or don’t fit your budget. Don’t hesitate to contact the organizers for more information.
4. Ask your child to make the final decision
Unless only one camp meets your requirements and matches your child’s interests, make a list of possible choices. Invite your kid to make the final decision.
Don’t wait until the last minute to register your child for a camp. Spots fill up fast!
5 interior design tips to make your windows look bigger
If your home doesn’t have large picture windows, here are a few tips to make your modest windows look larger.
1. Hang the curtain rod strategically. If you want your window to appear taller and broader, install the curtain rod about four inches above the window trim. Moreover, the curtain rod should extend about eight inches off the window frame on each side. This will trick the eye into thinking the window is bigger than it is.
2. Invest in high-quality drapes. Choose a high-quality fabric made of thick, sturdy material to help hide the line between the wall and the window. Patterned fabrics also draw the eye upwards, making the window look taller.
3. Paint the wall around the window a dark color. If the window frame is white, painting your walls white may make it fade into the background. Consider painting the wall surrounding your window a cool, dark color to make it pop.
4. Put up a large mirror. Hang a large mirror on the wall across from the window to let more light into the room. This will give the illusion of a bigger window.
5. Place low furniture around the window. Place small or low-profile furniture pieces near the window when decorating your space so the scale tricks the eye.
Visit several interior design stores in your area to find suitable drapes for your home. You may also consider ordering custom window coverings for an upscale look.
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