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Flash in the Pan

Falling for your yard: What to do now, so you’ll love your yard later

—Family Features

When you’ve mulched the last of the leaves, your fall lawn care isn’t quite done. This transition time from your lawn’s active growth to its healthy dormancy is when you need to take some extra care to help prepare it for next year’s growth.

Assess

Thoroughly walk your property and inspect lawns, trees, and shrubs. Identify problem areas in need of treatment, pruning, or replacement. Note patchy areas, where grass has thinned out or is in need of valuable nutrients and appears as light green. Also look for weed and pest infestations and overgrown shrubs and trees, especially those with the potential for interfering with roof and power lines.

Aerate

Aeration is a process that mechanically removes small plugs of turf, thatch, and soil from your lawn, leaving small holes in the turf. The plugs scattered on your lawn break down after a week or two and blend back into the lawn, feeding nutrients back to the root system. Aeration opens the soil, letting more water and food reach the roots, helping them grow stronger. If your lawn has significant thatch or soil compaction, it should be aerated at least twice a year.

Prune

A little, well-timed pruning goes a long way toward improving your landscape and protecting your investment.

When pruning your trees and shrubs, TruGreen recommends the following techniques:

  • Use sharp, high-quality tools that are matched in size to the job, so they cut without tearing.
  • Trim small branches up to 1/2 inch in diameter with hand shears.
  • Cut branches up to one inch in diameter with loppers.
  • Cut large branches of one to two inches in diameter with a pruning saw.
  • Shear formal hedges with hedge shears.

Replace

Fall is the ideal time to seed bare lawn areas and overseed healthy grass to improve lawn thickness and density.

Lightly rake an inch of surface soil to remove dead debris and properly prepare the area for seeding. Select a grass seed that is the same type as the grass already growing in your lawn. Lightly apply seed to the soil surface, and gently pack to firm the seed into the soil.

Apply a light layer of straw or seeding mulch to encourage rapid seed germination. Water lightly until the seed has fully emerged. Do not apply crabgrass preventive to newly seeded areas of your lawn.

Feed

A good fall feeding gives roots of lawns, trees, and shrubs the energy needed to prepare for a healthy spring green revival. If you fertilize your own lawn, make sure you read and follow the directions on the product carefully. Keep fertilizer on target to prevent runoff, and sweep fertilizer granules that may reach pavement back onto your lawn. Use a trained specialist for insect and disease control measures customized to your region to help trees and shrubs thrive.


Slash your phone bills

—Jason Alderman

Sometimes I miss the days before cell phones, e-mail, and voice mail. Sure, they’ve simplified our lives in many ways—remember how frustrating it was trying to reach people before answering machines? On the downside, though, not only do we often feel compelled to be accessible 24/7, but it’s expensive. After factoring in Internet service and cable or satellite TV, you might be paying thousands of dollars a year to keep your family wired and wireless.

Here are a few cost-saving tips that might help:

  • Examine your home phone bill for services you may have signed up for, but aren’t using, such as call waiting, call forwarding, or caller ID. Dropping them could save $100 a year or more, depending on your plan.
  • If you have good cell phone reception at home, try using your cell for long-distance calls. But be sure to stay within your monthly minute allowance, or your bill will skyrocket. When in doubt, check your remaining minutes at your carrier’s Web site or by calling or texting their “remaining balance” code.
  • More and more folks are dropping their landlines altogether, relying solely on cell phones. Just be sure it’s always fully charged—beware of extended power failures. And note that in an emergency, 911 operators may not be able to track your location if you’re unable to speak, as they can with a landline.
  • Another possible route is using a service that lets you make free or low-cost calls (often, including international calls) by using your Internet broadband connection. Some popular versions include Skype, Vonage, and Google Voice. You’ll need to buy certain equipment up front to enable the connection, and monthly and/or per-minute charges may apply.
  • In addition, many cable TV carriers offer competitively priced digital phone service via their broadband connection. Be aware that with either of these types of broadband phone service, you risk losing coverage during power failures, so it’s wise to have a cell phone as backup.
  • You may be able to lower your overall communications bill by bundling home phone, cell phone, TV, and Internet services together through one carrier. Plus, it’s convenient to pay only one monthly bill. Just make sure you’re not being restricted on services you want or overpaying for those you don’t; and do the math on rates after the introductory period, if one applies.

A few more tips:

  • Watch for offers made to new customers, and ask to be given the same deal—or threaten to take your business elsewhere.
  • Using a prepaid phone card for long-distance calls from home may be cheaper per minute than coverage through your phone company.
  • Ask if your employer has a cell phone plan discount for employees.
  • Explore family calling/texting plans in which you can share minutes among family members.
  • Add up your family’s monthly calling and texting charges, and see if the carrier’s unlimited minutes plan is more affordable.

Comparing all these options may seem like a lot of work, but you could save hundreds of dollars a year by choosing the right plans. Plus, you may just realize that you’re wasting too much valuable time on the phone, watching television, and surfing the Internet.

 

     

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