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Smart Irrigation Month

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Did you know that July is Smart Irrigation Month? In order to increase awareness and education about the value of water, the Irrigation Association deemed July as the month to save our precious resource. There are many ways in which you, your family and even your co-workers can get aligned with the cause. Get started with the tips below on how you can reduce your utility bills and save water by making small changes to your landscaping and gardening routine….

  1. Mulch around plants, bushes and trees – Putting down between 2 and 4 inches of mulch helps reduce evaporation and moderates highs and lows in soil temperatures. It also improves water penetration and helps moderate weeds that compete for water.
  2. Aerate to keep soil healthy – Aerate your lawn at least once a year to improve water penetration. When planting, turn and cultivate the soil. Also, add compost or fertilizer to improve moisture retention and grow healthier plants that need less water to stay strong.
  3. Landscape for your lot – Consider your lot’s features, including sun and shade, dry and damp areas, plant size and how you utilize each part of your yard. Then, choose grass/plants that have low water requirements and will thrive in your local climate.
  4. Place similar plants together – When you group plants with similar moisture needs in the same area, it makes it easier to make sure they get the water they need without overwatering. Also, be sure to separate plants from grassy areas. Grass has different water requirements.
  5. Plant grass in functional spots – A good rule of thumb is to plant grass in play zones and other areas where it will be used and enjoyed. Instead of planting turf on steep slopes, consider ground cover, perimeter plants or mulch.

For more helpful, water saving tips, visit the Irrigation Association’s website at https://www.irrigation.org/default.aspx

Vegetable Heirlooms vs. Hybrids

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What’s better than plucking a ripe, juicy red tomato right off the vine in your very own garden? As many gardeners know, there isn’t an accomplishment quite like growing your own produce and serving it to loved ones. If you’re just starting to delve into the hobby of gardening, you may have discovered that there are countless seed options. Not only are you deciding whether you should plant green beans or cucumbers, but you can’t figure out whether to go the hybrid or heirloom route.

What are “hybrid” vegetables?

Hybrid vegetables are created by crossing two selected varieties, sometimes resulting in vigorous plants that yield more than heirlooms. There are several reasons for hybridization, including increased productivity or disease resistance in food plants, and improved color or other visual attributes in decorative plants.

What are “heirloom” vegetables?

Heirloom vegetables are old-time varieties, open-pollinated instead of hybrid, and saved and handed down through multiple generations of families. Many heirloom vegetables have been saved for decades and even centuries. Typically, they are at least 50 years old and are pre-WWII varieties. They tend to be the best performers in home and market gardens.

Which type is better?

Some gardeners insist that hybrid tomatoes lack the “real” tomato taste of heirloom varieties. The seeds of heirlooms can also be saved from year to year, because those varieties will breed “true,” unlike hybrids. However, hybrid plants typically yield a crop that is uniform in both appearance and timing while heirloom vegetables produce a “mixed bag” of results.

On the other hand, with heirloom vegetables you can choose what works best in your garden. If you save the seeds from heirloom vegetables over several years, you can gradually select seeds from the plants that perform best in your local soil and climate. This will give you a seed strain that is more resistant to local pests and diseases. However, keep in mind that heirloom vegetables will often have a bigger price tag.

What is best for you?

Typically, it is suggested that you grow a mix of hybrid and heirloom vegetables. Doing this will ensure a reliable harvest that offers a lot of variety. Tomato plants are a good starter for someone who has limited experience with hybrid and heirloom vegetables.

Holiday Travel Safety

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As the Christmas holiday nears with each passing day, the roads are becoming increasingly busy with travelers hoping to wrap up their last minute shopping or venture home to visit family. While it may not look dangerous now, there is always potential for snow storms and ice buildup. Make sure you and your loved ones stay safe and take your time to prepare for such weather conditions. Below are some safety tips to help you brave the snow, sleet, ice and whatever else may come your way on winter roads.

Before Leaving

  • Be sure your tires are properly inflated.
  • Never warm up your vehicle in an enclosed area like the garage.
  • Give yourself ample time to clear off windows.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
  • Double check that the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with debris. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to reach the passenger compartment when the engine is running.

General Tips

  • Avoid using cruise control on any slippery or snowy surfaces
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Rushing will cause your car to skid out of control.
  • Increase your normal following distance to eight to ten seconds.
  • Try not to rush going up hills. Get some inertia before you reach the hill and let that carry you to the top.
  • Go down hills as slowly as possible.
  • Know how to use your brakes. The best way to stop is by keeping the heel of your foot on the floor and using the ball of your foot to apply firm and steady pressure on the brake pedal.

Long Distance Tips

  • Always have blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any medications packed in case you get stranded.
  • Stay with your vehicle if you become stranded. It will provide shelter and help rescuers locate you easier.
  • Tie something bright to your vehicle’s antenna to signal for help.
  • At night, keep the dome light on. This uses minimal electricity and is another way to signal for help.
  • Do not over exert yourself when trying to shovel your way out or push your car.
  • Run the engine and heater long enough to remove the chill while still conserving gasoline.
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