DIY and latest topics
DIY and latest topics
You will want to thoroughly clean the concrete if you plan to apply some kind of material over the concrete or if you just want to get rid of any grease and dirt. If you are working inside in a basement or garage, it is best to clear out everything on the floor and sweep away any dirt, leaves, or other grime. If cleaning a garage floor you may want to cover any wall board, cupboards, or workbenches to prevent splashes from the water.
If you have oil spots, cover them with kitty litter and let it sit for several hours. The litter should absorb the oil right out of the concrete and you can sweep it away. If the stain has been there a long time, there could be a discolored spot where the oil was. The important thing is to make sure the oil is gone. If you sprinkle a little water on the spot and it doesn’t bead up, you know you have removed all the oil residue.
Before applying epoxy, stain, or paint, the concrete needs to be squeaky clean to avoid seepage of material through the new surface and ensure a good bond with the concrete. One method is to use 1/3 cup Tide laundry detergent to 1 gallon of warm water and scrub the concrete with a stiff bristle brush. You can also use a degreaser agent and follow the instructions on the can. Most paint and stain products will give you directions and suggestions on products to use in cleaning for their paint or stain. Cover small areas with the cleaning agent or soapy water and allow to work for 10-15 minutes then add a little more water and rinse.
Rinse away the cleaner with a power washer or high-power nozzle on a hose. It is important to avoid letting the soapy water completely dry. The cleaner will pull dirt up out of the concrete and the water carries it away. A power washer with 3000 psi with a water flow rate of 3 gallons per minute is recommended. Select a nozzle that will do the job. If too powerful a nozzle is used, it could pit the concrete. Work quickly and don’t allow pressure to stay on one spot too long.
When dry, you are ready to apply the new material or just enjoy the fresh surface.
The first step in determining what kind of soil you have and what amendments you might need to make is to test it. You will be looking for pH levels and nutrients. Neutral pH is 6.6-7.3 on a scale of 1 to 14, so as the pH goes down from neutral, the soil is more acid and as it goes up, the soil is more alkaline. You will find plants that thrive in all ranges of the scale. Heather is one plant that requires a pH of 4.5 to 5. One year when I first started gardening, I bought seven heather plants to line the driveway. They are beautiful plants and I was very disappointed when they all died. I came to realize, after much studying on the subject, and testing the soil, that the soil was too alkaline for Heather. So, you really need to know your soil’s components and what each plant requires to thrive.
Testing is fairly easy. You can buy a test kit and do the test yourself. You can also gather soil samples, mix them together, and send them to your local extension office or a testing lab. Local nurseries may also offer testing services. To gather a sample, you will need to include soil from three different areas of your property. This will give you an idea of the overall pH of your soil and what other nutrients are present or absent. However, you may have different pH and/or nutrients in different parts of your yard. You may need to use a home testing kit to test each bed so you’ll know what amendments to include for that area. These kits usually include enough materials to test several areas. There is also an electronic soil tester that gives you readings on pH levels and soil fertility.
Whatever type soil you have, it can be amended and enriched to meet the needs of the plants you want to enjoy.
Planning is an important step in successful gardening and January is not too soon to start thinking about what you want to accomplish in your gardens this year. Whether your focus is on flowers, vegetables, landscape, or all three, a comprehensive plan will help you achieve the results you want.
Do Your Homework
Before you start, you need to realize that you can’t do everything in one year. Gardening is an ongoing experiment and outlet for creative ideas. The plan is a starting place, a guide to give you direction. It is OKAY to change your mind and move things around. January is a great time to read seed catalogs for ideas about the plants you want to use. The library is another great resource for books and magazines about plants. Maybe you have some books in your personal library. Make lists of plants that would work with your climate, sun/shade exposure, soil, style or theme.
Put it on Paper
After spending some time thinking about what you want and where you want to focus your efforts this year, get a piece of graph paper and start filling in what you have in your yard currently. Include your house, garage, driveways, sidewalks, any outbuildings, trees, and current planting beds. If you can take measurements of your property, that is great, but if not, then just estimate for now. You can refine the plan when the weather clears up. Next add in the plants, trees, and/or shrubs you want to introduce this year and make a list so that when you get ready to buy your plants, you will know what to look for and where you can use them. This really avoids buying plants that aren’t suited for your particular growing conditions.
Environment is Everything
There are two key elements to successful gardening. First, the soil health is the most important. With poor soil, your plants may not thrive. Second, plants need to be in the environment best suited to them. That means place sun-loving plants in sun (6-8 hours each day) and shade-loving plants out of direct sun. There are plants for all kinds of environments including full sun, partial sun, sun/shade, full shade, part shade, morning sun/shade, afternoon sun/shade and acid or alkaline soil. I’ll explain more about these terms and soil health in future posts, so stay tuned. Many more gardening posts will be coming.
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Billings MT 59101