Choosing a Paint Roller Cover

Spring is a great time to spruce up around the house and the easiest way to give your home a facelift is to paint. A good cutting-in brush, and a roller make painting a quick and easy project. But, who knew that there were so many different roller covers? What you are painting will determine the nap (thickness of the roller cover) you need to do the job. Roller covers come in different colors and materials and rollers create a smoother finish and better coverage than brushes.

Rough Textured Surface

If the surface is rough like a textured wall or ceiling, stucco, bricks, decks or masonry, you will pick up and distribute the paint best with a ¾ inch roller cover. The extra depth will pick up more paint and reach into the crevices for full coverage. It also holds more paint so you don’t have to go back to the pan as often.

Smooth Surface

The 3/8 inch nap is most often used for smooth surfaces like walls and ceilings. It is also used for painting some wood surfaces like shelves or boards before they are turned into projects. Small ¼ inch covers produce the smoothest finish and are best for furniture, metal, and anywhere where you want a very smooth finish.

Sizes

Rollers are generally 9 inches long, 6 inches long, 4 inches long, or 2 inches long. These sizes correspond to the projects you are painting. If you are painting a large surface, the 9 inch roller will cover the quickest. You may use the other sizes to fit the width of your project or reach into areas where the longer cover won’t fit. In some cases, such as painting a dresser or piece of furniture, you might use several sizes.

Materials

Synthetic covers like nylon, polyester, and microfiber work very well for water-based latex paints. If using oil paint, a natural material like mohair or sheepskin works best because it picks up more paint.  Blended materials such as a wool/polyester blend covers can be used with latex or oil paints. They have the absorbing ability of wool, and the longer life of the polyester material. There are also foam roller covers that work quite well for a seriously smooth finish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Herbs for Your Kitchen Garden

Basil.

Basil grown near tomatoes creates a strong scent that deters many pests. Basil loves heat and needs to be planted after nighttime temperatures stay at 55 degrees or above. The many varieties of basil will create a patchwork in your garden. Plant in full sun and fertile soil and you don’t need to add fertilizer. With shallow roots, basil needs damp soil, but only occasional deep watering. Snip out the growing tips to make it bush out and produce more leaves. Try these basil varieties: Purple Ruffles, Genovese Compact, and Italian Large Leaf. Makes awesome pesto.

Oregano

Oregano is great for flavoring Mediterranean dishes. The Greek and Italian Oregano varieties are the most flavorful. Avoid fertilizing and don’t overwater. Harvest before the plant flowers. You can cut a leaf, or a stem, or cut the entire plant down to about two inches from the ground just before flowering and again about a month before first frost. Use leaves fresh or dried and stored in a jar.

Cilantro

Leaves of this plant are called cilantro but the seeds are known as coriander. They like rich soil, so before planting, amend the soil with some good compost. They don’t like being moved, so if you buy plants, plant them once and leave them there. You can plant from seed and repeat seeding every two to three weeks. This plant doesn’t like fertilizer but requires evenly moist soil. Use immediately after cutting as it loses flavor if stored.

Rosemary

Rosemary is a very fragrant herb resembling a small evergreen. The leaves are used to flavor stuffing and roasted meats. It is a very drought tolerant plant and loves hot dry climates and hates wet feet, so plant in well-draining soil and don’t overwater. Used for many centuries as a medicinal plant, it is reported to support memory.

Dill

This flowery, feathery, herb is essential if you are making pickles, seasoning seafood, and making chip dips. Dill attracts many beneficial insects to your garden with its aromatic scent. This plant grows best if left alone. Harvest the seeds by gathering the seed heads, putting them upside down in a paper bag and shake the seeds into the bag. Try Dukat, Hercules, and Fernleaf varieties.

 

Pollinators in the Garden

You may think that the bees, wasps, flies, and beetles in your garden are a nuisance, but you would do well to allow them access to your plants if you want flowers and food. These insects pollinate your plants and transfer pollen from one bloom to another. Without them, there would be no flowers and no fruit or vegetables would grow from their blooms.

 Crops Need to be Pollinated

Some vertebrates such as birds and bats, and small mammals also pollinate plants and wind and water play their parts, too. The presence of pollinators in any area where crops are grown, including grains, vegetables, and fruit, is critical to the successful development of those crops. Approximately 75 percent of crop plants grown worldwide for food, fiber, beverages, condiments, spices and medicines need pollinators to produce their harvest.

 Beneficial to the Ecosystem

In addition to pollinating food crops and flowering plants, pollinators assist plants in providing food and habitat for wildlife, help prevent erosion and help keep waterways clean. The seeds pollinated plants provide are a major source of food for birds and mammals.

 Decline in Pollinator Populations

Many pollinators face decline or extinction because of widespread destruction of their native habitats and food sources. One example is the Monarch butterfly which only lays its eggs on specific and scarce plants such as milkweed. As milkweed is mowed down and eradicated from the landscape, the Monarch has no place to lay its eggs and is in danger of extinction today. Incorrect use of pesticides pose another danger to native pollinators.

 We Can Help

How can we help preserve the pollinators? Grow flowers in masses rather than a few here and there. Control invasive plant species so habitats aren’t taken over by them. Use pesticides, when necessary, on calm days and spray carefully. Plant vegetation that provides habitat. Plant flowers that pollinators are attracted to and provide a source of water.

Easy to Grow Veggies for New Gardeners

Peas – Sweet or English peas can be planted now as they can handle a light frost. Try Green Arrow, Maestro, or Patriot. These are dwarf varieties that can be grown without a trellis. For tall varieties, try Alderman or Lincoln. The tall peas need a fence or trellis to climb. Shell when pods are full.  You can plant for a second crop in late August.

Sugar snap peas and snow peas are grown like sweet peas and will need a trellis. These peas can be eaten in the pods and are delicious raw or cooked. Snow peas should be picked and eaten before the pods fill completely.

Carrots – Carrots need very loose soil, good drainage, and space to fill out. Plant seeds 2-3 inches apart and cut off any seedlings that are too close together.

Squash – Zucchini, yellow squash, spaghetti squash, butternut and other varieties can be planted from seed. Create a little hill of soil and put three seeds on each hill. Space the hills about three feet apart. Watch the squash as it grows and pick before they get too big.

Radishes – Radish seeds are very small, so just place them in rows and when they come up, cut out the extras, leaving about 2-3 inches between plants. These grow to maturity in about 3 weeks. After harvesting each batch, replant to have fresh radishes all summer.

Lettuce – Lettuce and many types of greens like spinach, kale, arugula, and Swiss Chard also like cooler weather. Greens mature quickly and can be replanted again. Most greens do not like intense heat, so you may need to plant in an area that gets some shade in the middle of summer.

Peppers – Sweet and hot peppers like sun and heat, so plant them outside when the night time temperature stays above 50 degrees. They do best with some kind of support, whether a cage or stake. Peppers come in all kinds of sizes and colors.

 

 

How to Plant Tomatoes

Tomato plants take up a lot of nitrogen to produce those juicy red fruits, so the soil they grow in each year is depleted of nitrogen. The best policy is to rotate them to another area of the garden every year for four years.

Restoring Nitrogen

When the tomatoes are done for the season, plant a winter cover crop such as legumes, clover or winter peas. The following spring you simply cut them down and turn back into the soil.  As they decompose they will raise total nitrogen in the soil and make the nitrogen available for other plants.

Amending the Soil

It’s important that the soil in your tomato beds is loose and full of nutrients. It should fall apart when you try to make a ball of dirt. If it sticks together, you have clay soil, and will need to add amendments to loosen it up and add compost for nutrition.

Planting the Tomatoes

Tomato plants develop roots along the entire stem that is under ground, so to have a healthy root system, they need to be planted deep.  Plentiful roots make plenty of sweet juicy tomatoes. Dig a hole about 8 to 10 inches deep. If you use a post hole digger, you will not compact the soil around the hole and one scoop gets the job done quickly. Dig holes a minimum of two feet apart. Tomatoes need room to spread out.

Add some compost into the hole along with a few tablespoons of dried crushed eggshells, which add calcium, and some used coffee grounds. Your plants will love it. Remove as many lower leaves as you can and plant the tomato as deep as possible. Then put some eggshells and coffee grounds around the base of the plant and water in well.

What if the Plants are Short or too Tall?

Most tomato plants you find in the garden center will be well developed and ready to plant, but if you find a smaller plant, simply bury as much of the stem as you can without removing all the leaves. If your plant is tall and leggy, you can dig a trench about four inches deep and lay the plant in the trench sideways, allowing just the top leaves to appear above the ground.

Enjoy the best tomatoes ever!!!

How to build a raised bed garden

There are several materials you can use to build a raised bed garden. Some of the most popular are cedar, pine, and concrete blocks.  The advantages of raised beds are numerous. The soil warms up earlier in spring, drainage is excellent, you do not have to till, and it’s easy to add a layer of compost twice a year to keep the soil healthy.

Size

Most raised bed frames are a minimum of 6 inches high and 2 inches thick. The side boards are two inches thick for strength and durability.  Remember you are using these boards to hold back a significant amount of dirt.

You can use 2X4 lumber if you are growing shallow rooted vegetables like lettuces or radishes, but most other vegetables need more depth.  Tomatoes in particular need to be planted deep.

How wide you make the beds depends on whether or not you can reach the middle. If you want to build a bed four-feet wide, you would need to have access on either side of the bed in order to reach plants in the middle that need tending, and for weeding.  Any width can work as long as you do not have to step in the beds to reach the middle. You do not want to compact the soil.

Building the Bed

You can use lumber the height you want your bed, or you can use narrower lumber and stack it to build whatever height you want. For example, you want to build the sides of your bed 24 inches high. You would simply build each box the width and length you want and stack them. To keep them together you would build braces on either the inside or outside.

You would need three 2X8X8 rectangles, two 2X12 rectangles, or two 2X10X8 rectangles and one 2X4X8 rectangle to build the sides to 24 inches.

Pressure Treated or Not?

It is not recommended that you use pressure treated wood in building beds for vegetables. The chemicals used in the pressurization process can leach into the soil and into your food. If you want to use this for longevity, cover the interior of the bed with sheet plastic and staple in place.

Lasagna Gardening

Lasagna Gardening is a process of layering organic materials that will decompose and create the most wonderful soil you have ever seen. It’s also referred to as sheet composting, and no-till gardening

If you are building new garden beds over grass or have soil that just isn’t healthy, the Lasagna Gardening method of building soil may be the answer for you and you don’t even have to get out the tiller.

Start by laying cardboard, butcher paper, or 10 sheet thick newspaper pads over the plot for your garden bed, overlapping them so all grass or dirt is covered. Keep your beds no more than 3-4 ft. wide because you will not want to walk on the growing areas.

You need to be able to reach into the center from both sides. If you are building your beds against a structure or fence, use 2-3 ft. wide beds to access from one side.

Your beds can have structured sides or slanted soil sides. The layers will provide a raised bed with or without formal sides. You want to layer with a mixture of brown and green material.

Brown material would be leaves, straw, peat moss, sawdust, shredded office paper, spoiled hay, and twigs. Small pieces are key.

Green material would be grass clippings, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, and well-aged animal manure. Never use meat or any type of grease which can attract unwelcome animals.

After laying the paper or cardboard, water it well. Next lay in about 4 inches of brown material, then lay in about 2 inches of green material (a ratio of 2:1) and continue layering until the bed is the desired height. You can use different material for each layer, then water well.

You can plant in this bed right away. Mulch with straw, fine wood chips, or chopped leaves to protect against weeds. If building in the fall, your beds will have all winter to “cook” and be ready for planting in the spring.

After the growing season, remove dead plants and add more layers to bring the level back up to the top of your beds. Cover with straw or mulch to keep weeds from taking hold in the spring.

Home Tool Kit

The kit in the picture above came in a pink and black satchel with pink handled tools, but you can find generic kits, and also pick up each piece individually. Sets of screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches and more can even be found in pockets that will hang up on pegboard.

So, what might be included in a basic tool kit.

Box Cutter – or also known as a retractable blade knife – this little tool is handy for all kinds of cutting jobs like opening packages, cutting vinyl flooring, marking cut lines, cutting tape, cord, strapping or cardboard.

Self-Retracting Tape Measure – Around the house you might need to measure windows for coverings, measure the square feet of a room for carpet, measure the size of a box for mailing or measure the length and width of a piece of furniture.

Set of Miniature Screwdrivers – These might be needed to adjust screws in a pair of glasses, open a watch to replace the battery, or adjust something on a sewing machine. The set pictured above has two sizes of pointed punches.

Screwdriver Handle with Replaceable Bits – This is a handy tool as the bits are changeable and you can have a Phillips bit, various sizes of flat bits, star and square bits. The driver also comes with a ratcheting handle that turns itself instead of you having to turn the driver.

Pliers – These come in many sizes and uses. Some pliers come with flat jaws, others have cutting jaws, some for working with electric. Needle-nose pliers are handy for getting into and grabbing items in small spaces.

Wrenches – These, like pliers come in various styles and sizes. There are great sets of wrenches with pockets for each wrench and ability to hang it from peg board. There is an open-end wrench, box-end wrench, combination wrench, adjustable wrenches, socket wrenches and pipe wrenches.

Hammer – The most common for household use is the claw hammer. You might need to pull nails out of baseboard, hang pictures, use a small ball-peen hammer to attach picture wire.  Hammers have wooden, metal or padded handles.

Level – The kit above came with a small level which is useful for leveling pictures, shelves, and any small wood piece you might be making. Sizes range from 9 inches to 78 inches.

Maintaining Power Tools

When my chop saw started smoking with every cut, I figured it needed some attention. The deck was difficult to move because of sawdust buildup in the slide mechanism and I’m sure the blade needs to be replaced. But, I didn’t have a clue how to fix these things, so I did a little digging.

Cleaning

Power tools are exposed to sawdust, dirt, and moisture and need to be cleaned after each use to avoid a complete shutdown. Unplug the tool from the wall outlet or remove the battery before cleaning. Regular maintenance of power tools makes them last longer and perform better. And if you have designated spaces to store them, you will be able to find them when they’re needed.

Deep clean the tool and its case periodically. Blow out the exhausts, intakes, decks, and undersides with compressed air. You can use a cotton swab or toothbrush if needed for hard to reach areas like air intake slots and toggle switches. Moisten a clean cloth and wipe down the entire tool. Avoid getting any water on the motor. Lubricate moving parts with machine oil or manufacturer’s recommended oil for best performance and to prevent rust.

Inspection

Inspect your power tools for wear or damage. Are the cords frayed? If so, replace them to avoid electric shock to you or a fire. Replace any bent or loose prongs. Check the chuck on drills for corrosion or debris. Do moving parts work easily? Do saw blades need replacing?

Batteries

What about batteries? Batteries can lose a charge when not in use, so if you only use them periodically, check them well before you need them and recharge before use if needed. Store batteries in their case if possible and check the terminals for breakage or moisture. Always have a backup ready to go as cordless batteries need a recharge around 70% capacity. Check for damage or cracks.

Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance of power tools makes them last longer and perform better. Always take a little time to clean them off, blow pressurized air in the air vents and rub with a light coat of WD-40 oil before putting them away. And if you have designated spaces to store them, you will be able to find them when they’re needed. I plan to take my own advice and clean up my chop saw!!

Types of Screws

There are hundreds of styles and sizes of screws, but here is some basic information about some of the most commonly used by the DIYer. Screw heads can have mainly slotted, Phillips, star, or square grooves as well other heads for specific purposes. All require different screw drivers or bits that attach to the driver. Slotted heads may be the hardest to use because the groove is a straight slot and drivers can slip out easily. The other three types of drivers allow the tip of the driver to go deeper into the screw head and grab on so the driver doesn’t slip and it is easier to turn for a tight fit.

Drywall Screws – black screws with thinner thread and Phillips head (looks like an X and requires a Phillips screwdriver or bit to use. These are popular because the thinner thread makes it easier to screw into drywall, and the special bugle shape between the shank and head is designed so that it doesn’t break the drywall paper. Not recommended for wood, although many use it for wood projects.

Wood Screws – slightly fatter threads and may be more space between threads. Three basic head types are available plus specialty heads and usually require Phillips drivers or flat headed blade drivers. There is a shank between the thread and the head.

 Flat headed screws can be sunk below the wood surface and are cone shaped under the head.  Size is measured from the tip of the point to the top of the head.

Round headed wood screws sit on top of the material and may have threads placed farther apart than the other types and are usually thicker. Round head screws are measured from the tip of the point to the bottom of the head.

Oval headed wood screws can have a shorter thread and are countersunk with a cone shape under the head and a rounded top.

Sheet Metal Screws – There are many different types of sheet metal screws. They have the standard slots such as flat, Phillips, Square, or Star. Most common heads are pan head, and flat head.

Pan head screws are slightly rounded and have short straight sides.  The thread goes all the way to the base of the head. Choose the head best for your project.

Flat head screws have a flat top with a cone shape under the head cone.

Deck Screws – Deck screws have a unique shank design and  are easy to use without pre-predrilling due to their unique design. They must resist corrosion and rust  and must lay smoothly against the deck surface. These screws are usually 3 inches long and may be zinc coated and come in different colors.

With so many choices, it can be difficult to decide which screws are right for your project.  Consult the expert associate in the hardware department if you need help deciding the right screw for your project.