Back For 2017! Our Foray into HOME AUTOMATION!

So, after a long and fruitful 2016...Just kidding, 2016 FLEW by! We managed to up our client list by 200% and we saw a record year for business. Since then I have changed jobs twice, we have a new niece to look after putting the count at 2 and Winter is almost over!

This year we are focusing primarily on hard goods and slightly increasing our client list. We have saturated our summer time with our clients and are at a point where we are needing to hire staff if we grow too much. We feel that could compromise our quality, so we are approaching it slowly. 

Over Winter we have dived into Home Automation in a big way. It is something that can alleviate those incredibly high power bills, increase home efficiency and give you peace of mind when you are away from your castle! We are also offering our services and help to anyone taking on the challenge and encourage everyone to at least get their feet wet with it in 2017!

Each week, we will highlight a component of home automation that we took on, in chronological order. We will highlight the opening, setting up and operation of each device and then outline how easy it was to install, setup and use. 

The first.

Nest Thermostat (Price $200 used on Kijiji)

We bought this to alleviate the Winter power bills and automate our home heating with geofencing (That is where a device monitors your location and does things based on where it knows that you are). 

INSTALL

The install was somewhat difficult. The main reason was the home builder installed a unit, painted around it and mounted it very poorly, resulting in a hole in the wall and some touch up being needed. Forethought towards home automation is not a builders strong suit. Not only was my whole house wired with Cat5, but now this!

Once the old unit was removed, we place up the new unit and test fit the location. Easy enough. The wiring is super straight forward with any modern house, we can't speak for older homes and outdated wiring though. It was clearly indicated as to colour and style of wire and where it would go. The unit can even detect when the wires are connected incorrectly. Cool!

The only downside to this unit is that I had an after-market humidifier, and I had to contact the manufacturer to determine how to run it with the furnace and not the thermostat. But that was easy enough and not typical for a standard installation. 

SETUP

The setup was VERY straightforward. Once the unit had power, it was as simple as following the on-screen directions, a lot of them, to get the unit setup. Set aside 15 solid minutes for this. It would go a lot quicker with a keyboard but since its an over-sized dial, you can't expect much. 

OPERATION

Once we setup our schedule through the setup process, it knew when to turn on, how long it would stay on for and so on. It can detect movement in the house with a proximity sensor and if no movement is detected it will resort to an Away Mode that lowers temp to a desired low limit. We set it at 16C. Eventually, you can set it up and link it to your phone and camera (later) and it can just use your phone locations to achieve the same result. 

So all in all, a great device that saved us about $10 a month on heating through the first year. It is also super convenient for when we are away or coming home to turn on the furnace so it is warm when we get in the door. 

 

In the following post we will go on to discuss Nest Cam, Wemo Switches and Hue Lights to name a few. Stay posted for more information and message us if you have any questions along the way! We will respond to them all. 

Have a wonderful 2017!

Plants and Trees for Fruit Year-Round

We have been so busy this spring! Our apologies for the absence if you have missed us!

We have doubled our client list, attended to 200% more yards in our first two months than our entire season last year!

So minimal time for blogging but just in time for planting up here in 4b! We are big on square foot gardening this year, it's a HOT trend and you'd be crazy not to give it a shot. Drop us a message for a complimentary guide HERE.

And here is a helpful and amazing infographic (because we love them) from Happy To Survive. Check them out, they do great work;)

Surprise! The Best Time Plant That Garden is Winter.

Even if there’s snow outside your window or it’s absurdly cold out there, now’s the time to start thinking about your garden.

Michigan State University Extension shares this quote from Liberty Hyde Bailey (founder of the Extension Service in the 1800s):

A garden is half made when it is well planned. The best gardener is one who does the most gardening by the winter fire.

This is a good time to decide what you want to grow and order the seeds you’ll need, test your soil, and deal with those weeds. First time gardener? Here are the easiest vegetables to grow.

Garden checklist: Plan for your vegetable garden now | Michigan State University Extension

src:Lifehacker

Start Your Indoor Garden Now With This Seedling Startup

If you're thinking about starting a garden, it's not too early to plan for the warmer weather months. The blog Old World Garden Farms explains that if you're thinking about planting seeds in the spring, you can give your garden a leg up by starting indoors—and it doesn't take too much space, money, or light to make it all work. Here's how.

First, they explain, do away with expensive gear like heating pads and expensive grow lights or full-spectrum bulbs. Simple shop lighting will work just fine for the amount of time you'll have your seedlings indoors, and as long as your basement, garage, or other indoor space isn't below 40 degrees F (4 degrees C), you don't need any special equipment to keep them warm. You'll need a little space for the setup, but that's all.

They suggest picking up a pair of simple, dual-bulb fluorescent shop lights (available at most hardware stores for about $10-$15), one 32 qt bag of potting soil mix, four empty planting flats with seed tray inserts (also available at most hardware or gardening stores), and maybe some spare wood to hang your shop lights from. You'll assemble the whole thing like the photo above—with the soil and the seeds in the flats, and the shop lights hung low over the flats so they're uniformly bright when they're turned on.

Give your seeds about 12-14 hours of light each day, and in a couple of weeks you'll have healthy, hardy seedlings that grow straight up since they won't have to bend or turn to follow light from a window or a far-off light source. After about six to eight weeks, they'll be strong enough to plant outdoors—which is just around the time the weather will be warm enough for planting if you start now. Hit the link below for a more thorough step by step, complete with photos.

How To Easily Start Garden And Flower Seeds Indoors On The Cheap! | Old World Garden Farms

src: Lifehacker

14 Quick Urban Gardening Tips that will save you time, energy and money!

1. To remove the salt deposits that form on clay pots, combine equal parts white vinegar, rubbing alcohol and water in a spray bottle. Apply the mixture to the pot and scrub with a plastic brush. Let the pot dry before you plant anything in it.

2. To prevent accumulating dirt under your fingernails while you work in the garden, draw your fingernails across a bar of soap and you’ll effectively seal the undersides of your nails so dirt can’t collect beneath them. Then, after you’ve finished in the garden, use a nailbrush to remove the soap and your nails will be sparkling clean.

3. To prevent the line on your string trimmer from jamming or breaking, treat with a spray vegetable oil before installing it in the trimmer.

4. Turn a long-handled tool into a measuring stick! Lay a long-handled garden tool on the ground, and next to it place a tape measure. Using a permanent marker, write inch and foot marks on the handle. When you need to space plants a certain distance apart (from just an inch to several feet) you’ll already have a measuring device in your hand.

5. To have garden twine handy when you need it, just stick a ball of twine in a small clay pot, pull the end of the twine through the drainage hole, and set the pot upside down in the garden. Do that, and you’ll never go looking for twine again.

6. Little clay pots make great cloches for protecting young plants from sudden, overnight frosts and freezes.

7. To turn a clay pot into a hose guide, just stab a roughly one-foot length of steel reinforcing bar into the ground at the corner of a bed and slip two clay pots over it: one facing down, the other facing up. The guides will prevent damage to your plants as you drag the hose along the bed.

8. To create perfectly natural markers, write the names of plants (using a permanent marker) on the flat faces of stones of various sizes and place them at or near the base of your plants.

9. Got aphids? You can control them with a strong blast of water from the hose or with insecticidal soap. But here’s another suggestion, one that’s a lot more fun; get some tape! Wrap a wide strip of tape around your hand, sticky side out, and pat the leaves of plants infested with aphids. Concentrate on the undersides of leaves, because that’s where the little buggers like to hide.

10. The next time you boil or steam vegetables, don’t pour the water down the drain, use it to water potted patio plants, and you’ll be amazed at how the plants respond to the “vegetable soup.”

11. Use leftover tea and coffee grounds to acidify the soil of acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, gardenias and even blueberries. A light sprinkling of about one-quarter of an inch applied once a month will keep the pH of the soil on the acidic side.

12. Use chamomile tea to control damping-off fungus, which often attacks young seedlings quite suddenly. Just add a spot of tea to the soil around the base of seedlings once a week or use it as a foliar spray.

13. If you need an instant table for tea service, look no farther than your collection of clay pots and saucers. Just flip a good-sized pot over, and top it off with a large saucer. And when you’ve had your share of tea, fill the saucer with water, and your “table” is now a birdbath.

14. The quickest way in the world to dry herbs: just lay a sheet of newspaper on the seat of your car, arrange the herbs in a single layer, then roll up the windows and close the doors. Your herbs will be quickly dried to perfection. What’s more, your car will smell great.

View the original post here: http://www.hgtv.com/design/outdoor-design/landscaping-and-hardscaping/14-simple-gardening-tips-and-tricks

Kick Off The New Year With Indoor Gardening!

We will be posting this month about a hot new trend, indoor gardening! 

Not only can it be cheap, it can save you money on your grocery bill. You can eat very healthy and organic food, year round. We will lay out some interesting ideas for you in the next installment. Follow our page and sign up for our newsletter to make sure that you don't miss out!

Easy Modern Industrial House Numbers Using Stainless Steel Screws

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Visible house numbers aren’t just for looks—they’re an important safety feature that every home should have in case of fire or emergency. (Plus, you don’t want to miss any packages). Here’s a DIY set of house numbers that will give your home an industrial chic look.

Buying off the shelf house numbers can be frustrating, since there aren’t many options at the big box retailers and buying online can be dicey without seeing them in person.

Instead, you can make a set of numbers with stainless steel screws and the pattern of your choice. You’ll need a powered screwdriver or drill/driver, square bit, hammer, and box or two of #8 stainless steel 1 5/8” screws.

Find a set of numbers you like and use Photoshop or some other editing program to set up your grid. Then position your grid to the location you want your numbers, either directly on your house or a back board.

Check out the link below for the full set of instructions.

Modern Industrial House Numbers | Instructables

Prepare Your Lawn For Winter

Preparing Lawn for Winter

What is good for a Ontario lawn wouldn’t make sense for a lawn in Northern British Columbia. But with a little research and a climate-appropriate approach, any lawn can weather the change of season. To help with this task, this is how you prepare your lawn for winter.

Cut Off the Water

First and foremost, you don’t need as much water on your lawn now as you did over the summer. Change your irrigation schedule if you haven’t already. Of course, your irrigation strategy will depend on where you live. Regardless of whether you have a warm-weather or cool-weather lawn, you should change your water usage over the winter. With that in mind, here are a couple climate specifics for winter lawn water usage.

In Northern climates, stop irrigation completely. If you live farther north, you should stop using sprinklers entirely. They simply aren’t needed. Plus, if they go off just before a big freeze, your lawn will suddenly become a sheet of ice. Also, completely drain your sprinkler system because the pipes can freeze and burst. Most modern sprinkler systems come with auto-draining valves, making this an easy job. If you aren’t sure about how to drain your particular system, contact the manufacturer in order to avoid a costly replacement in the future.

Rake Your Leaves

You should aim to keep up with your raking all autumn because it’s an absolute must when it comes to winterizing. A thick carpet of wet leaves — especially if they eventually freeze — will destroy your lawn, turning it into a large patch of dirt come spring. Even though the work can be intense, raking is probably the most important thing you can do to winterize your lawn. Plus, you can always use those leaves as compost, turning them into rich soil in the future.

If you’re lucky enough to only have a light layer of leaves, consider mowing them instead of raking them. A small amount of well-chopped leaves can serve as a compost layer, feeding your lawn during the cooler months. As long as leaves aren’t going to get weighed down from snow or ice over the winter, you can use them to your advantage. Plus, if you use a mulching mower, you can spread leaves more evenly across your entire lawn.

Give Your Lawn Another Dose of Fertilizer

You should give your lawn a good fertilizing in either late summer or early fall. Late fall is another great time to feed your lawn, as well. It'll be ready to suck up anything you give it. Aim to provide your lawn with all the nutrients it desires, so it will come back green and lush in the spring. 

Cut Your Grass

Your grass probably won’t be growing too much through October and November. Regardless, you should trim your grass short just before winter. The best approach to late autumn mowing varies depending on where you live. With that in mind, here is a quick summary of the best regional mowing approaches:

 

Overseed Throughout the Autumn

Overseeding involves spreading a layer of grass seed over existing turf. If any areas of your lawn are thinning or need attention, make sure to lay seed before it gets too cold.

Dethatch, If You Haven’t Already

Like overseeding, dethatching can easily be done throughout the fall. If you’re doing a final raking, you can simultaneously do a final dethatching. Thatch is the layer of dead grass that collects between the soil and the grass foliage.
If your lawn has too much thatch built up, the grass won’t get the nutrients it needs. This is especially important during the winter when grass is hibernating. Rent a vertical mower or use a specialty thatch rake to pull up the thatch and dispose of it with your final collection of autumn leaves. And remember, the longer you put off dethatching, the harder the job will become. Don’t be afraid to start right away.

Pull Out Your Annuals

Annuals, by definition, die every year. The dead plants will discourage growth come spring and can become homes for lawn- and garden-killing insects, so remove your annuals before winter starts. Pull them up, making sure to include the roots, and add them to your compost pile.

Mulch the Perennials

While annuals die in the winter, perennials merely go dormant. To prepare these plants for winter, apply a layer of mulch. It’s a good idea to mulch throughout the autumn. Also, raked leaves can be easily chopped up for this purpose. If you’ve been planning ahead, you might already be set. But if you haven’t mulched yet, now is the time.

Remember that dormant perennials look a lot like dead annuals, so don’t accidentally pull out perennials before they can spring back next year.

Add Organic Matter

This is also the perfect time to add organic matter to your garden beds, such as the following:
-Manure
-Blood meal
-Bone meal
-Cottonseed meal
-Greensand

Adding organic matter to your soil can dramatically improve its health for the next growing season. If you add these materials at the end of autumn, they’ll have time to break down and become part of the soil in the spring, making it more productive when you’re ready to plant new annuals or vegetables.

Don’t Forget Your Compost Pile

A good compost pile is alive and active, even throughout the winter, but you need to keep up the internal temperature. A nice layer of straw or leaves will help insulate the pile. Plus, it will keep your compost from getting too wet. Keep turning and mixing the pile. By staying on top of your compost maintenance, you’ll have rich soil come spring.

Also, remember not to include any diseased or insect-infested plants in your compost pile. You don’t want to return diseased plants to the soil through your compost. If you have any plants that are infested with pests or pathogens, destroy and dispose of them separately.

Prune and Protect Trees and Shrubs

If you live in cooler climates, you should prune back your trees and shrubs before the winter comes. Not only will this keep your trees healthy, but a well-pruned landscape is easier on your lawn. Overgrown trees and shrubs will block the sun, leaving portions of your lawn sun-starved come spring.

Check with your local garden center about the proper pruning time for your particular plants. Different plants and trees need to be pruned at different times.

If your yard receives strong icy winds, you can make a burlap screen around young or evergreen trees to give them a little more protection from the cold weather.

Lastly, Leave the Snow

When it snows, you must plow your sidewalks and driveway, but try to avoid plowing the grass. If you regularly plow the area of your lawn that borders the pavement, you may have noticed that this grass is patchy in the spring. That’s because snow protects your lawn throughout the winter. The area that has been exposed won’t be protected, so it will lag behind your other grass when spring arrives. Plus, plows and shovels can gouge and damage your sensitive lawn, so do your best to leave the snow where it fell. However, you don’t want to add to the natural snow cover when plowing your driveway. 

Sounds easy right? If that seems too much work or you, or you just don't have the time, Contact Us!

Out with Etsy. Introducing Amazon: Handmade!

If you've been looking for for a hand-sculpted Gothic dragon weathervane, you now have a new way to find it: Amazon's Handmade online store. As rumored earlier, the new venture has arrived in response to the success of Etsy, the artisan-goods company that just went public with a massive $3.5 billion valuation. The store is divided into seven categories, including jewelry, home decor, artwork and furniture. That'll give you a chance to find some one-of-a-kind paintings, along with items like leather magnetic cuffswalnut rocking chairs and a beer growler holder.

Amazon has 80,000 items in the store already from artisans in over 60 countries around the world. The company told the NYT that "you can think of it as a factory-free zone... we're going to launch with an experience that's very different." The retail giant has promised that every item is genuinely handmade, and every artisan has a profile on the site so you can see how they make their items. Meanwhile, Etsy recently allowed vendors to outsource manufacturing, and has faced questions over counterfeit goods on its site.

However, artisans have expressed concerns over the higher fees that Amazon charges, and think that the corporate vibe doesn't mesh with craft culture. Either way, Etsy will be in tough against Amazon, which is the largest retailer in world and has over 10 times the customers of its artisan rival.

 

src: Engadget

Do You Want Beautiful Flowers Next Spring, Plant Bulbs Now!

Even though the weather is cooling down, there’s still plenty you can do to get your garden ready for spring. Fall is the perfect time to plant some bulbs. Let them winter, and come spring they’ll sprout on their own, without you having to lift a finger.

 

Planting flower bulbs, like crocuses, daffodils, and hyacinth, now gives them time to establish roots before sprouting once warm weather returns. Pick the flowers you want, dig holes for each bulb, add fertilizer and water, and walk away: Your flowers are set for spring, and when the warm weather comes back, they’ll take care of themselves.

If you don’t have a garden space, or want to brighten up a deck or patio, you can layer your bulbs in a container. Choose several types of flowers that bloom a few weeks apart so you always have some to enjoy. For detailed instructions on how to best layer the bulbs, hit the link below.

Plant Bulbs Now, Enjoy Flowers Later | This Old House

Image From Paperwall

Here's A Simple Checklist For Storing Your Mower For Winter.

When the weather starts cooling down, the equipment you use for yard work changes from mowers to rakes. This checklist will show you how to store your gas mower for fall and winter safely, so it’ll be in good shape when you need it next spring.

Before you start the process, disconnect the spark plug so the mower can’t accidentally start. Next, take care of each of these parts of your mower:

  • Empty the gas tank. This is the most important thing since gas that is left sitting for months can cause damage to the rubber and plastic parts of your mower.
  • Clean the undercarriage. You’ll need to remove the blade to do so. Wear heavy gardening or work gloves to protect your hands. Use a wire brush and putty knife to scrape off dried grass, dirt, and other debris.
  • Change the oil, if necessary (4-cycle engine). Reattach the mower blade. You can choose to either sharpen the blade before reattaching or sharpen it in spring when you’re getting ready to use your mower again.
  • Replace your air filter and clean the cooling fins.

If you’re not sure how to safely remove any of these parts, or where they are on your mower, Google your mower’s instruction manual so you can reference it. For photo illustrations of each step, hit the link below.

How to Store Your Lawn Mower for the Cold Season | This Old House

 

Mid Summer Nutrient Boosting

Fertilizer

Now is the time for your mid-season fertilizing. Crown Landscape recommends our SuperGreen Formula application. We apply from Mid-July to Mid-August to take that browning out that is caused by this summers' non-stop heat.

This summer has been particularly dry and hot. Our region has had only 10 cm of rain this year so far and 7 cm of that was before July. We recommend a Daily Watering on days over 30C (86F), instructions for Daily Watering are provided to our very outstanding customers for free. It uses less water, more frequently, at cooler times during the day. This method ensures a tougher, daytime-heat resistant yard.

So be sure to Contact Us for more details on our SuperGreen Formula and watering schedules, we offer great programs and services for fertilizing that keep your yard looking its best! 

Quick Tip #1: How to Remove Tangled Thread & Hair from Vacuum Rollers

Every well-run home is teeming with tricks and shortcuts to keep it humming along. We're sharing our best quick tips — for cleaning, organizing and repairing stuff at home — to save you time and money. Click through for today's helpful hint, and links to tons more...

Use a SEAM RIPPER! This little tool is perfectly designed to get in between the roller brush and the offending string, lint, hair, or thread and cut it away. Run it along the length of the roller, pull out the pieces, and your vacuum will be back in business.

MORE HELP

 

Around the Web:

(Image credits: Dabney Frake)

Hot Tubs. Warming not only your pocketbook, but the environment too!

hot tub
solar

It is estimated that the average hot tub uses over 7 kWh per month. 

This has been taken from Atco's power charts for the Province. It is using 300 gallons as an example. The average Lethbridge homeowner buys close to 400 gallons.

                                                                        The average Lethbridge hot tub contains close to 400 gallons. Example is for 300 gallons.

                                                                        The average Lethbridge hot tub contains close to 400 gallons. Example is for 300 gallons.

If this is adjusted for a 400 gallon hot tub, that's $58.00 a month! That is the equivalent of leaving 165 - 100W light bulbs on twenty four (24) hours a day, the entire month. 165!!

Keep in mind that's just electricity costs alone. Now we haven't even factored in the cost of cleaning chemicals which are harmful to handle or the cost of refilling due to evaporation. This was so eye opening that Atco had to create a special line item for just hot tubs. 

Now I know what you're thinking. What can I do about this? Crown Landscape offers free consultation on solar projects. We are so forward thinking and environmentally concerned that we will show you methods of offsetting your costs via Solar Power

A small residential Crown Landscape Solar Array project could easily cut that nasty hot tub bill right in half and start paying itself off in as little as 5 years!

Contact us now for your free consultation!

Summer Is Here, Here's The SPF You Actually Get!

A sunscreen labeled “SPF 15” should let you spend about 15 times as long in the sun before you burn. Pretty awesome, right? Unfortunately, most of us don’t get that level of protection because we don’t apply enough. What you’re likely getting: a mere SPF 2.

We should be using about an ounce of sunscreen, or almost a shot glass full, to get the recommended 2 milligrams per square centimeter of skin. That’s what the label’s SPF is based on. But most of us use a lot less: 20% to 50% of the recommended amount. That means we’re not getting the protection we think. Here’s a handy chart from the Environmental Working Group’s sunscreen tests:

Actual Effective SPF Rating

Coverage rate of 0.5mg/cm2

 

So if you’re thinking that the SPF 100 protects you much better than the SPF 15, it doesn’t—unless you apply the recommended amount. Read more at the link below about the science behind choosing a good sunscreen.

The Great Sunscreen Cover-Up | Science Based Medicine

Article by Beth Skwarecki

Sloped Yard? Build A Beautiful Retaining Wall

retainingwall

A yard with a steep slope can be difficult to landscape. Build a block retaining wall to add level tiers to your yard, which prevent erosion and provide a perfect place for a flower garden.

Engineering your retaining wall is the most important part of the process, as a well constructed wall should support hundreds of pounds of soil and plants. Proper drainage is vital to the long-term success of your wall.

Consider hiring a landscape architect to assist in design and planning. It’s possible that your expectations are beyond your DIY skill levels, which is always best to know before you start building.

You can buy retaining wall blocks at Home Depot for as little at 60 cents each, and spend up to $3 each for larger and nicer blocks. You’ll need a shovel, mallet, hand tamper, wheelbarrow, yard stick, level, and caulking gun.

Expect to spend a weekend or two to build this project. This Old House has a great video at the link below with in-depth instructions on constructing a block retaining wall.

How to Build a Retaining Wall | This Old House

Lethbridge Coulee Clean-Up

Extreme By Nature - Coulee Clean-Up - May 14th @ 6:30

Have you noticed any local coulees that could use some spring cleaning? Lend a hand! Join community volunteers in helping with the Annual Coulee Clean-up! Call to register. For ages 11-15.

Website: http://www.lethbridge.ca/hsnc

Contact: Helen Schuler Nature Centre

Phone: 403-320-3064

Email: hsnc@lethbridge.ca