Category: Lawn Care

A More Eco-Friendly Lawn is Just Steps Away

Maintaining a lush lawn is a healthy and rewarding hobby that affords homeowners to spend some time outdoors in nature. Lawn enthusiasts can make their hobby even healthier by adopting several eco-friendly lawn care strategies that not only make for a healthier lawn, but a healthier planet as well.

Responsible landscaping has grown increasingly popular in recent years, as more and more homeowners are adopting eco-friendly lawn care practices in the same way they have embraced environmentally conscious behaviors in other areas of their lives. The following are a handful of ways lawn care enthusiasts can incorporate eco-friendly practices into their landscaping routines.

Maintain an appropriate grass height

When temperatures start to peak in summer, homeowners may be tempted to cut their grass as close as possible so they can reduce the number of afternoons they spend riding or pushing a mower in the hot sun. But cutting too low makes the grass increasingly susceptible to infestations and disease, and such problems may need to be remedied with potentially harmful pesticides if no other approach proves effective. Even if it means an extra afternoon or two mowing under the hot sun, maintaining an appropriate grass height can lead to a healthier lawn, as longer grass soaks up more sunlight, allowing it to grow a deep root system that will help a lawn survive drought and other potential problems.

Cut back on harmful pesticides

Many homeowners now prefer to avoid pesticides at all costs, but sometimes pesticides are a last resort when lawns are falling victim to harmful insects and organisms. Homeowners who want to embrace more eco-friendly lawn care practices can cut back on their use of pesticides, first trying more environmentally friendly options. For example, biopesticides are made from naturally occurring materials, including animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, biopesticides are often inherently less toxic than more conventional pesticides. In addition, biopesticides typically affect only the pest causing the problem, whereas broad spectrum pesticides may affect surrounding organisms, such as birds and mammals, in addition to the targeted pest. The EPA (www.epa.gov) advises homeowners hoping to use biopesticides first learn about managing pests so they can effectively remedy problems on their properties.

Harvest rainwater

Lawns need water, especially when temperatures rise in the summer. But watering lawns can have an adverse effect on your community’s water supply, draining that supply and hurting the community in the long run. Homeowners who can harvest rainwater can drastically reduce their impact on their community water supply, thereby helping the planet and their community, especially if they reside in locales where water resources are traditionally scarce. When rainwater is harvested, it is collected from downspouts before it washes into nearby sewage systems. Many lawn and garden retailers sell rainwater harvesting systems, which homeowners can install themselves or pay a landscaping professional to install for them.

Lay mulch down around trees, shrubs and flower beds

Trees, shrubs and flower beds need water, especially in the summer when rising temperatures pose a threat to plants. Homeowners can cut back on the water they use to protect those plants by laying organic mulch in the spring. Organic mulch conserves moisture in soil, promoting stronger roots in plants and helping homeowners cut back on the amount of watering they need to maintain a garden that’s both healthy and pleasing to the eye. Organic mulch, which might be made of bark, is also heavy, making it hard for ugly weeds that rob plants of water to thrive.

Maintaining a Bird-friendly Environment This Season

Bird watching is a pastime enjoyed by people of all ages. While many people trek into the woods to see their favorite birds, homeowners can take steps to entice these fascinating and feathered friends right to their backyards.

Homeowners who want to attract birds to their properties can do so by providing the birds food, shelter and places to wash up or cool off. Installing a bird feeder and a bird bath in your yard is one way to attract a bevy of winged creatures that can provide hours of enjoyment.

Establishing a bird-friendly environment may seem as simple as hanging a feeder on a pole or tree and erecting a bird bath nearby. But a certain level of maintenance is needed to keep birds healthy and happy.

According to the experts at the Bird Watcher’s Digest, recent research indicates feeders can sometimes be a source of disease for the birds visiting them. The Audubon Society echoes that warning, saying that bird feeders and baths can serve as transmission stations for diseases such as aspergillosis, avian pox and salmonellosis. Recently, scientists noted that the spread of trichomonad protozoan parasites is on the rise, especially among mourning dove and band-tailed pigeon populations.

Such warnings are not meant to deter budding birding hobbyists. Organizations like the Audobon Society hope that such warnings send the message that disinfection and maintenance is necessary to maintain sanitary environments for birds. Doing so is relatively easy and well worth the time for birding enthusiasts.

• The Humane Society of the United States advises cleaning hanging feeders once every two weeks or more often if they’re heavily used. Ground-feeding designs should be cleaned every two days. Feeders can be immersed in a very-diluted solution of bleach to water (nine parts water to one part bleach). Let soak for a few minutes, and then scrub the feeder with a stiff brush or scouring pad before rinsing. Allow the feeder to dry completely before refilling it with seed.

• Bird baths should be emptied of water each day. Brush or wipe the bath clean, then rinse and refill with fresh water. Do not leave standing water overnight; otherwise bird baths can easily become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other parasites.

• Frequently collect discarded seed hulls and clean bird droppings from beneath feeders. If the area around the feeder has become especially soiled, relocate the feeder elsewhere and clean its initial location.

• Follow proper instructions with regard to seed and other bird food. For example, reduce the amount of suet offered in hot weather. Heat can cause suet to spoil, and sticky suet can become stuck in birds’ feathers and make it hard for them to keep clean.

• Try to provide more than one feeder and bird bath to prevent overcrowding. Crowding can contribute to the spread of disease.

• Do not situate feeders and bird baths under perches where they can be soiled by droppings.

• If you notice birds look sick or are not acting strangely, halt feeding and bathing to prevent healthy birds from becoming ill. Wait a week before resuming feeding and notify wildlife officials if you find dead or sick birds around your property.

• Locate feeders and baths at least 30 feet away from windows so birds do not get confused by reflections and collide with the glass.

• Store seed in a dry container with a tight-fitting lid to prevent mold from forming and moisture from getting in.

Creating a thriving habitat for bird watching is easier than one might think. But once birds begin visiting a yard, homeowners must diligently maintain clean feeders and bird baths to ensure the birds stay as healthy as possible. Any questions about wild-bird care can be directed to a local Audubon Society chapter or by visiting a pet store or bird hobby center.

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The Importance of Clean Gutters

Every autumn, trees and shrubs take on their brilliant display of reds, oranges, purples, and yellows that mark the end of the growing season. Fall foliage may make for ideal photo backdrops and scenic days in the countryside, but closer to home leaves may be more of a hindrance than an aesthetic pleasure.

The hundreds of leaves that adorn the maples, oaks and other trees near homes will eventually fall as autumn turns into winter. Some will float down to lawns, while others will get lodged in gutters and downspouts, posing problems that can cause substantial and potentially costly problems for homeowners.

Homeowners know that gutter cleaning is an important part of fall home maintenance, but they may not completely understand why. Gutter cleaning can be a messy and time-consuming project, making it a project many homeowners are apt to put off. Waiting to clean gutters can lead to considerable problems, so it’s best to tackle the job well in advance of the winter.

Gutters guide rainwater and runoff from the roof so it drains properly away from homes. When gutters are clogged with leaves, a number of problems can occur.

· Leaks: Water will take the path of least resistance. When clogged gutters do not allow the water to drain away properly, water will find other ways to the ground. It may work itself right into the walls and ceilings of the home. In addition to damaging walls and ceilings, moisture inside the home can promote mold growth. It also makes interior spaces more appealing to pests.

· Excess weight: Gutters are meant to hold the weight of traveling water and not much more. Gutters filled with leaves and other debris can quickly become heavy. This stresses the entire gutter system and can cause the gutters to fall off of the home entirely.

· Nesting areas: Clogged gutters can serve as nesting areas for insects and birds. Mosquitoes and other insects lay eggs in pooling water. Gutters can quickly become breeding spots for harmful pests. Furthermore, birds may nest in gutters, creating unsightly messes and more damage. Seeds that sprout in clogged gutters can grow unchecked.

· Ice-damming: Left untreated, pooled water and leaves in gutters can freeze over. Blocked water can back up and push against the roof, lifting shingles and destroying the roof in the process.

· Foundation trouble: Clogged gutters also may contribute to flooded basements and cracked foundations. Leaking water will pool around the foundation, expanding when frozen and causing cracks in basement and crawlspace walls. It also can cause driveways and other cement areas around the home to sag and crack.

Gutter cleaning should be scheduled in the spring and fall of each year. Homeowners can hire gutter-cleaning services to handle the job or do the job themselves. Rinse the gutters with water from the hose afterward to ensure good run-off. Take the time to seal any leaks as well. This routine maintenance can save homeowners many headaches and prevent some very expensive repairs.


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Creative Ways to Recycle Leaves

Leaves cascading down from trees indicate the arrival of autumn. However, colorful and awe-inspiring autumn leaves can be a hazard if left to lie on the ground too long.

Fallen leaves form a dense insulator to protect trees’ roots and prevent competing plants from growing. Decomposing leaves also provide nutrients for the tree. But wet leaves can be a safety hazard and leaves left on the lawn through the winter can pose a threat to the grass. These are just a couple of reasons why so much effort is placed on leaf clean-up in the fall. The following are some creative ways to recycle leaves that fall from your trees in the weeks to come.

· Mulch: Shredded leaves can make for a great amendment to fertilizer for garden beds and even the lawn. Leaves lying on the grass can be mulched into small pieces with a mulching mower so they don’t choke the blades of grass. Leaves also can be broken down with a string trimmer, a leaf blower that has a vacuum function or a commercial shredder/chipper. Add the shredded leaves to a compost pile or use them to fill container plants before adding regular potting soil.

· Insulation: Collect leaves to mound over delicate perennial plants and shrubs. The leaves will add more warmth to the soil and may help plants make it through harsh winters. Just remove the leaves slowly when spring arrives so that the soil underneath can get the sunlight and water it needs to thrive. Leave some leaves in the yard so that animals can use them as nesting material and line their dens for the winter.

· Stuffing: Create whimsical scarecrows as part of your autumn decoration scheme. Gather older clothes that you no longer use and stuff the sleeves of shirts and the legs of pants with leaves, which are less expensive and easier to come by than straw. Use a few pieces of straw around the neck and hand areas of the scarecrow for visual effect. Tie off with twine and display your scarecrow.

· Bedding: Chicken owners can use fallen leaves as bedding in their chicken coops. Dry leaves also may create more comfortable and drier conditions for goats and other livestock. Goats may look to recently fallen leaves as a nutritious food source. Gather the leaves and let the goats munch before you further rake and compost the leaves.

· Decorations: Natural leaves can be used as decorations both inside and outside a home. String freshly fallen leaves together and wrap them around a grapevine wreath for a rustic door decoration. Leaves can be placed in clear vases and put on display for a cheap way to showcase some autumn color. Preserve favorite leaves with a lamination machine or by sealing them between heated sheets of waxed paper. Cut out the leaf shapes and use for hanging window decorations.

· Recreation: Leaves have long been favorite toys for children, who eagerly await jumping into large piles of fallen leaves. Fill paper bags with leaves and draw a target on the front. Let kids test their skill aiming for the targets. Children can camouflage their clothing with leaves and masking tape and have a more intense session of “hide and seek.”


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Help Plants Survive Sizzling Summer Heat

Many people consider summer the most enjoyable time of year, as the summer sun and warm breezes make the season perfect for rest and relaxation. But the months of June, July and August, which are often characterized by rising temperatures and stifling humidity, can be tough to endure as well.

When summer heat becomes especially uncomfortable, humans can simply head indoors and beat the heat in air conditioned buildings and homes. Plant life is not so lucky, and homeowners may need to take steps to help the plant life on their properties survive the summer heat.

· Monitor soil moisture. Soil moisture, or a lack thereof, can help homeowners determine if their plants are struggling to survive the heat. To check soil moisture levels, use a ruler or even your finger, sticking either two inches into the ground where you suspect the soil is drying out. If the soil is damp two inches below the surface, then your plants are likely retaining enough moisture to withstand the heat. If the soil is dry two inches below, then you may want to give the soil a deep soak.

· Keep an eye on container gardens. Containers may have an especially difficult time staying moist in the summer heat. That’s particularly true for containers that sit in direct sunlight. Water container gardens daily during summer heat waves, being sure to adhere to any local water restrictions.

· Lay down mulch. Mulch helps insulate and protect soil during summer, when soil can quickly dry out. When applied correctly (ideally before summer temperatures get too hot), mulch helps the soil conserve moisture and prevents weed growth. Weeds can rob soil of the water it needs to promote strong root systems, which can help plants get the nutrients they need to withstand summer heat. Mulched soils also do not experience the fluctuations in temperature that non-mulched soils can experience during summer heat waves, helping plants to grow evenly.

· Move plants when possible. Plant location can affect their chances of surviving summer heat. Driveways lined with flowers or other plants may look nice, but driveways exposed to the sun can radiate heat at temperatures that exceed the temperatures noted on the thermometer. If possible, move plants to locations on your property that are less exposed to the heat and/or less likely to be affected by the heat. Move container plants beneath trees on hot days, and consider summer heat waves before planting new flower beds.

Summer heat can be especially harmful to plant life. But homeowners can employ various strategies to protect the plant life on their properties when temperatures rise during the dog days of summer.


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How to Make Spring Projects More Eco-Friendly

The arrival of warmer weather means different things to different people. Some anticipate opportunities for outdoor fun, while others may be considering redecorating or remodeling their homes. For the latter group, home improvement season provides a great opportunity to make homes more eco-friendly.

When planning home improvement projects, it’s best to first choose a project and then look for ways to make the project more environmentally friendly. Such an approach may not only benefit the environment, but it also may benefit homeowners’ bottom lines.

Interior decorating

Longer days and warmer temperatures often translate into wanting to freshen up the interior of a home. Heavy draperies and comforters are put away, and lighter fabrics are taken out of storage. Whenever possible, reuse or repurpose items you already have rather than purchasing new items. Longer drapes can be cut and hemmed to be used as window treatments in other rooms. Making a patchwork blanket out of old T-shirts is a crafty project that makes use of items that would otherwise be destined for landfills.

When laundering linens, skip the energy-using dryer and let items line dry in the sun and fresh air.

If you decide to purchase some new items, look for products made from sustainable or organic fabrics. Hemp and bamboo textiles have grown in popularity. Hemp and bamboo plants grow quickly, and their durability makes these materials smart choices.

When replacing items around the house, donate older items to a charitable organization.

Flowers and plants

Spring and summer call to mind beautiful blooming plants. Relying on native, sustainable plants is practical, environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, sustainable plants are native plants. Native plants sustain local wildlife more effectively than non-native alternatives, so include native plants in your sustainable garden. Native plants also are less reliant on pesticides and herbicides to keep them healthy and viable.

Don’t forget to bring plants indoors as well. Even though you may be opening the windows more, indoor plants can filter and purify indoor air. The NASA Clean Air Study, led in association with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, found that certain common indoor plants naturally remove toxic agents such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air. Efficient air cleaning is accomplished with at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space.

Proper disposal

Spring cleaning is another tradition for many families come the end of winter and dawn of spring. Many people use spring as a time to go through closets and garages to remove items they no longer use or need. In an effort to clean up fast, some people may dispose of chemical products, paints, treated lumber, and many other items in ways that can be damaging to the environment. Always learn local municipal guidelines for proper disposal of potentially harmful products. Area recycling centers may have drop-off areas for stains and paints, used motor oil and other potentially harmful products.

Before discarding something, see if it can be donated or sold. This will result in fewer items ending up in landfills.

Exercise caution outdoors as well. Runoff from cleaning products used on home siding or driveways can leach into the surrounding soil or find its way into sewage drains that ultimately direct fluids to public waterways. Choose environmentally responsible products whenever possible.

Springtime renovation and cleaning projects provide the perfect opportunity to adopt eco-friendly practices that pay dividends for years to come. TF164031

Caring for a Freshly Sodded Yard

Sod, sometimes called turf, can quickly turn a barren landscape into a rich, thick carpet of green. Homeowners hoping to revive their lawns commonly turn to sod as the quickest means to do just that. However, once the sod has been laid down, few homeowners may know how to keep it looking its best.

green2Sod is real grass that is grown on special farms. It is generally grown locally to avoid long transport times that could dry out the product. Sod is typically sold in squares or rolls of grass that come with the roots and soil already attached. There may be some sort of thin backing material on the sod to keep the grass blades together.

Many homeowners turn to sod when growing lawn from seed becomes problematic or too time-consuming. Seeds can be blown around in the wind or be eaten by birds and other animals before they have a chance to germinate.

Sodding a lawn is a major investment, costing as much as $1 per two-foot square. Depending on the size of your lawn, this can be a costly job even before adding the cost of additional supplies, such as soil, fertilizer and tilling equipment. Many homeowners who install sod want to ensure their investment lasts. Here are the main ways to care for and protect sod until it is fully established.


Automatic sprinkler
Automatic sprinkler

* Once the sod has been laid down, the lawn should be thoroughly soaked with water. Most experts recommend soaking it to a depth of 6 inches.

* It is important to establish a watering schedule to keep the sod moist. Water the sod to a depth of one inch every other day for the first three weeks to enable the roots to securely establish themselves in the soil.

* Water the sod every other day unless the weather has been very warm. After four weeks you can generally go up to five days without watering as long as you transition slowly. The sod will change colors if it is not getting enough water. Never let the lawnturn yellow, otherwise you may have to cut out dead spots and re-sod.

* Wait two to four weeks before mowing the sod. Keep the lawnheight to around two inches to ensure that it won’t scald in the sun.

* After two months of established sod growth, aerate the sod to keep the soil from being too compact and to enable oxygen and nutrients to get into the soil.

* Keep children and pets off of the sod while it is establishing itself.

* Fertilize the lawn every 50 to 60 days, beginning in March and ending in October.

* Inspect the sod for pests, which may include insects or problems like fungi or weeds. Treat accordingly with products designed to remove pests.

Using sod to establish a lush lawn is a fast, albeit more expensive option to sowing seeds. After a few weeks the lawn will be thick and secure.


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Lawn Envy with Mower & Parts from Shank’s Lawn Equipment + Safety Tips

Be the envy of your neighborhood with a lush lawn with the right care & equipment from Shank’s Lawn Equipment!

Local service with experienced advice and trusted brands.

4708147082

4900 Molly Pitcher Highway, Chambersburg, PA 17202 – Phone: 717-375-1021


Whether you’re transforming your backyard into an award winner or just trimming the lawn, the CSA Group, a leading certification and testing organization, asks that you remember the following safety tips:

Yard Work

* Always ensure that products such as electric lawnmowers, barbecues, power tools, ladders, decorative lights, extension cords and safety apparel carry the mark of a recognized certification organization, such as CSA Group.

* Read the manufacturer’s operating instructions and use products only as intended.

* Wear protective eye and footwear (on eyes and feet, respectively).

* What’s that you say? Wear hearing protection when operating loud machinery, vehicles or tools.

Power Lawnmowers

* Know your mower and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

* Look for these safety features: a rear guard to protect your hands and feet from rotating blades; a “deadman” control that stops the mower when you release the handle; and an “up-stop” feature to prevent the handle from kicking up when the mower hits an obstacle.

* Clear the lawn of sticks, stones, wire, toys and other objects (including that screwdriver you lost in the grass last summer), as they could get caught in the machine or flung by the blades.

* Wear clothing that provides some protection, including long pants, a shirt with sleeves and firmly-tied shoes with non-slip soles and hard toes.

* Never cut the grass when it’s damp or wet, or when there is rain or lightning. Wet conditions greatly increase the risk that you will slip, suffer electric shock or clog the mower.

* Always mow in daylight, never at twilight or in the dark. Keep your eyes on the lawn and look ahead (at least three feet) for debris.

* Shut off, unplug and engage your mower’s safety devices before removing clogged grass clippings.

* Shut off the mower immediately if you hit an object. Check for damage and do not restart it unless you’re sure it’s safe to do so.

* As suggested by its name, always push rather than pull a push mower.

* All extension cords should be untangled, in good repair, have a three-prong plug rated for outdoor use and be of the recommended gauge for the load.

For more information on CSA Group visit www.csagroup.org.


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Pruning Trees is Best left to the Pros

Bountiful, healthy trees can be beautiful to behold and important contributors to a thriving environment. According to American Forests, a nonprofit conservation organization, a tree can absorb as much as 40 pounds of carbon dioxide per year and can sequester one ton of carbon dioxide by the time the tree reaches age 40. The United States Forest Service adds that trees placed properly around a home can reduce air conditioning and heating demands considerably.

pruning2Many homeowners are content to leave healthy trees alone. However, trees eventually must be pruned or removed if they become safety risks or pose other threats. Trees with roots that are damaging home foundations or those with limbs overhanging property limits or power lines can be troublesome. Although homeowners can handle relatively minor tree maintenance, for a variety of reasons, many tree projects are best left to the professionals.

Avoid injury

Professional tree contractors recognize and understand the hazards associated with tree and limb removal. Many operate in accordance with national or local guidelines to maintain proper clearance of power lines and structures.

Trimming trees close to electrical lines puts a person at risk of being electrocuted. Professionals know how to protect themselves and prevent power outages, which can result when limbs come into contact with power lines.

Professional tree services will use machinery appropriate for the task. Cherrypickers and cranes may lift workers to the correct height to work on trees, while do-it-yourselfers who rely on climbing trees or using ladders are at risk of injury.

Prevent damage to the tree

Many tree services understand the proper way to prune trees to minimize stress and damage to the tree itself. Novice pruners may inadvertently do more harm than good, resulting in proliferation of tree disease or shock. Improper pruning technique also can lead to an unsightly tree.

Liability

A professional tree service will possess the correct liability and worker’s compensation insurance. This protects homeowners against litigation should someone be injured while tree work is being done.

Homeowners who damage neighboring properties when cutting down a tree may find that they are not covered by their homeowner’s insurance policies. This can be a costly mistake that’s easily avoided by simply hiring a fully insured tree removal service.

The right tools

The right tools can mean the difference between a job done correctly and one that results in disaster. Professional arborists and tree services have acquired the training, tools and techniques to perform the job safely. This includes using the right tools to tackle the job. Ropes, pulleys, cranes, stump grinders, and other heavy machinery are just a few of the tools tree services have at their disposal that the average homeowner does not.

Trimming or removing trees can be an unpredictable and potentially dangerous endeavor. Such work is best left to professionals. GT154044

Break Ground with the Right Tools

The right tools for the job can be the difference between an interminable landscaping project and one that goes smoothly and efficiently. Aspiring landscapers probably have a few shovels and rakes hanging in their garages and sheds for basic landscaping work. But while such tools are effective for certain projects, when it comes to churning soil for garden beds or digging holes for outdoor structures, additional tools come in handy. It may be well worth a trip to a nearby home center to purchase or rent one of these tools ideal for breaking ground.

Rototiller

A rototiller, sometimes called just a “tiller,” is a powered garden tool designed to loosen soil prior to planting. A rototiller also can help aerate soil during the growing season. Because they reduce the need for manual spade digging or hoeing, tillers can be useful landscaping tools, particularly for homeowners who want to work efficiently.

Rototillers will break through tough soil and any plant roots. They come in a variety of sizes, and it’s best to match the tool to the size of the job. Many homeowners can get by with smaller, less powerful models, especially if the tiller is only necessary at the beginning of planting season. Professional landscapers or those with large swatches of property may benefit from larger models.

Auger

Augers, both mechanical and manual, are essentially large drill bits that help move materials from one location to another. Augers are typically used to cut holes in landscapes, and they are good for post-hole drilling, which is part of the process of installing deck footings, fencing posts or other structures. Augers come in a variety of sizes, and homeowners can choose how much power they prefer. Augers can be heavy and cumbersome, and many do-it-yourselfers will find that one-person augers are more than adequate for their projects.

Augers dig deep holes, so it is always smart to have the property surveyed prior to use. This way pipes, gas lines, buried electrical lines, and any other obstructions are clearly identified prior to drilling.

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Cultivators are similar to tillers in that they loosen soil. Cultivators are effective during the growth period of plants, when they can be used to aerate the soil and remove weeds. Cultivators come in hand-held versions and push models, and some are even motorized. Cultivators get close to plants to remove weeds without disturbing the plant. They also are used to stir in compost or fertilizer.

While many people think cultivators and tillers are the same, that is not the case. The former is less powerful and will mix the soil or stir up the top layer, while the latter can break up moderately hard ground and loosen firm soil.

When using any tools around the garden, wear the proper protection. This includes devices to protect hearing when power tools are in use as well as gloves and safety goggles. Tillers, augers and cultivators have the potential to toss soil and rocks into the air, so make sure others keep their distance while work is in progress.


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