Making your home more energy efficient is good for the planet and your wallet. Here are a few tips to help you reduce your energy consumption during the summer months.
• Upgrade your air conditioner. You can lower your energy bills considerably by switching to an Energy Star certified model, especially if your current unit is more than 10 years old. For best results, use HEPA filters.
• Allow fresh air to circulate. A ceiling fan can help cool a room and reduce strain on your air conditioner. Choose an Energy Star certified model to minimize energy consumption.
• Keep the heat out. Close blinds and curtains during the day, especially those on southern-facing windows. This will help regulate your indoor temperature.
• Rethink outdoor lighting. Use solar-powered lights to brighten up the patio and opt for motion-sensor lights around the sides of your property.
• Set up timers. Program your outdoor lights to go on when it gets dark and turn off when you go to bed. You should also consider installing a timer for your pool pump.
• Dry laundry outside. A clothesline or drying rack allows you to take advantage of sunny days and avoid turning on the dryer.
Visit the stores in your area to find everything you need to maximize your home’s energy efficiency in summer.
Are you using too much drinking water?
If you’ve decided to adopt environmentally responsible practices at home, you may need to adjust your purchasing and energy consumption habits. However, have you considered how you use your drinking water? Here’s what you need to know.
Water flows from the faucet on demand, giving you the sense that it’s an infinite resource. But wastewater treatment is costly, both economically and environmentally. Eliminate some of the following bad habits to reduce your daily water consumption.
• Cooking vegetables in a whole pot of water rather than steam cooking
• Waiting for the tap water to run cold before filling your glass
• Letting the water run while brushing your teeth or shaving
• Using tap water to clean the yard
• Taking frequent baths or long showers
• Flushing with just a little urine in the toilet
• Using drinking water on your trees, flower beds, and vegetable garden
There are many strategies to reduce your water consumption. Use a rainwater collection system to reduce tap water usage in your garden. In addition to limiting your shower time, you can install low-flow toilets and faucets in your bathroom. For cold drinking water, simply keep a full pitcher in the refrigerator. A front-loading washing machine is another water-saving solution.
Did you know?
Roughly 30 percent of tap water consumed by American households is used outdoors. A rainwater collection system can help you significantly reduce your tap water usage.
6 tips for growing rhubarb
Here are six tips for growing rhubarb in your backyard.
1. Choose a sunny location with rich, relatively moist soil. Ideally, pick somewhere other than your vegetable garden. Rhubarb takes up a lot of space and can cover up smaller plants.
2. Allow at least three feet between your rhubarb and other plants. This ensures it has plenty of room to spread out.
3. Apply compost and all-purpose organic fertilizer annually. Make sure to read the package instructions for the proper application.
4. Remove weeds at the base of the rhubarb plant to avoid attracting pests like weevils. Make sure to remove wilted stems to promote growth regularly.
5. During dry spells and intense heat, water your plant in the evening to prevent shock. Avoid getting the leaves wet, and don’t oversaturate the soil.
6. Don’t pick any rhubarb the first year. Wait until the third year to harvest heavily. However, never pick all the stems because this can weaken the plant.
Talk to your local garden center staff for more tips and advice.
Keep kids reading with these summer challenges
School’s out, but that doesn’t mean a break from learning. Books are the perfect screen-free activity when it’s rainy or too hot to play outside, and with a few incentives, kids will keep their brains busy all summer long.
Mega-bookseller Barnes & Noble offers extensive summer reading lists for all ages and preferences on their website and offers a free book incentive for kids who finish enough books and fill out a reading journal. Visit https://www.barnesandnobleinc.com/our-stores-communities/summer-reading-program/ for more information.
Scholastic’s Summer Reading program provides books, kid-friendly activities, and monitored online spaces so kids can safely connect with other readers. Visit https://www.scholastic.com/site/summer-reading.html for more information.
Showcase Cinemas’ Bookworm Wednesdays program lets kids earn free admission to a select children’s movie in exchange for book reports about their summer reading picks. With free admission for any accompanying parents or guardians and children under six, you can make it a family event.
Your local public library is also an excellent place to connect your favorite kid with a summer reading challenge or just give them a steady supply of free, age-appropriate books.
How much mulch?
Organic mulch is a powerful tool for gardeners. However, it’s not always easy to calculate how much you need to cover your flower beds. Here’s what you need to know.
Why you should use mulch
Mulch is a layer of organic material that covers the soil around trees, shrubs, and flowers. Whether it’s made of cedar, cocoa shells, hemlock or bark, it’s an essential element for beautiful, healthy flowerbeds. Mulch helps:
• Slow down weed germination
• Keep the soil cool
• Preserve soil moisture
• Reduce the number of insects and diseases
• Enrich the soil through decomposing
How much mulch do you need?
Most greenhouses and big-box stores sell mulch in two cubic feet bags. Moreover, horticulturists agree you should lay down at least three inches of mulch.
One cubic foot of mulch covers about four square feet of space to a thickness of three inches. Therefore, a standard bag would cover about eight-square feet of space. To calculate the total square feet to cover, divide it by eight to get the number of bags to buy.
For example, for a garden bed measuring 20 feet by six feet, the calculation would be 20’ x 6’ = 120 square feet to cover; 120 square feet ÷ 8 square feet = 15 bags.
Some nurseries carry mulch in bulk or sell it by the square yard, equivalent to 27 cubic feet. You would probably need about one square yard for an average-sized project: 27 cubic feet ÷ two cubic feet (one bag) = 14 bags; 14 bags x 8 square feet = 112 square feet covered.
Why use a rain gauge in the garden?
A rain gauge is a practical instrument that measures rainfall.
Using a rain gauge can help you adapt your watering schedule to avoid over or underwatering your plants. However, to make good use of the data you collect, you must first know how much water each type of plant requires.
You can use a rain gauge to compare the amount of rainfall from year to year, which can help you plan your future crops.
Visit your local garden store to find a rain gauge that will serve you well for years to come.
4 ways to create shade in your yard
Here are four ways to create a cool, shaded area in your yard to help you survive the hot, sun-drenched days of summer.
1. A canopy is an aesthetically pleasing option that provides shade and, depending on the model, can protect from UV rays. Remember to choose a triangular or rectangular canopy that’s light in color to avoid attracting more heat.
2. An umbrella is ideal for creating a shaded area exactly where you want it. Depending on where the sun shines during the day, you can move it around or adjust the angle. Moreover, choose a large enough model that has a stand to meet your needs.
3. A pergola is made of wooden slats or lattice and can be fixed or mobile. It has the advantage of being more durable than a canopy or umbrella. Additionally, you can install curtains or arrange climbing plants for more privacy.
4. Trees add coolness to your yard and are an excellent long-term solution. You can use a temporary shade source until the trees grow to sufficient size.
Contact a landscaping specialist to find the best option for your situation.