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Make My Lawn Look Better

This year, I wanted to make my lawn look better. So I decided to test out the Hummert and DynaGreen products that Toby Tobin endorses, which we sell at Porters. I have always heard good things about the products Toby Tobin endorses and I have sold several of them myself. So I will be posting updates as to what fertilizers and other lawn care products I have been using and what my results are with each.

1This was my lawn last year when I used no product. A sorry sight indeed.

2The first step in making your lawn look better and making your lawn healthier is good practices. These are some things you might ask yourself at the beginning of Spring and the answers to those questions:

 

Q. How often should I sharpen my mower blade?

A. You should sharpen your mower blade every 10 hours of use. A dull mower blade will shear the grass blades inviting disease into your lawn. Keep that blade sharp!

Q. How do I change the oil in my mower?

A. You should change the oil in your mower typically once per year. Most mowers will use a standard 30W oil. Simply drain and fill. The only reason you should need anything else is if the manual says specifically, or you plan on mowing in cold weather, which is doubtful.

Q. How tall should I let my lawn grow?

A. You should set your mower on the highest setting typically, but especially in the hotter months. 3 ½” is the desired length. This will keep your soil cooler, and prevent weeds from sprouting up over the grass. One short mow in early Spring is acceptable to promote growth and aid in dethatching/aerating.

Q. Do I need to bag my lawn clippings?

A. If you plan on mowing regularly, bagging your lawn clippings is actually the wrong thing to do! Small clippings decompose quickly and act as a natural fertilizer, recycling nutrients into your soil. If you let the grass grow too long and end up cutting off more than a couple inches, they will not decompose as quickly so you should bag the clippings.

Early Spring is the time for over-seeding, aerating, and dethatching if you choose to do them. I did none of these and instead used Earth Right Super Stuff to condition the soil. This product is made locally and helps 3turn our Clay County clay soils into rich, easy draining, healthy soil. If you do aerate or dethatch, use this product after. It is important to water this product in, and use double rate on first application.

Next I applied Dyna Green Step 1 Dimension fertilizer with Crabgrass Preventer (Yellow Bag). Unlike most pre-emergents, Step 1 can be put down all the way into mid-April and still be effective.

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Here are my results on making my lawn look better, thus far.

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Update:

After my impressive Spring results, I was excited going into the summer. I applied DynaGreen Step 2 – Long Lasting with Umaxx. For step 2 there is a choice between Long Lasting and with Viper. Viper is a broadleaf killer making it a commercial “weed ‘n feed” product.Dyna Green Fertilizer 23-0-8 Use with Viper if your lawn is over 25% weeds. If your lawn has some weeds, but not 25%, the fertilization along with a little bit of spot spraying will take care of your weeds. In addition to Step 2, I also put down a small amount of Pelletized Gypsum. Gypsum will aid in composting and aerating the ground. Since this year was my first use of Earth Right Super Stuff, I decided the gypsum Bag of pelletized gypsum.would aid in getting my soil loosened up a little faster. You really can’t put down too much gypsum, and you really don’t have to put down as much as the bag says. Any amount helps and if you use as much as the bag says it will feel like a ridiculous amount to put down.
 

 

 

Fill That Post Hole With Concrete

Fill That Post Hole With Concrete!

When you’re building a deck, a fence, a pole building or whatever, everyone thinks that the hole MUST be filled with concrete.  I did a little research and on this subject and surprisingly there are a couple websites where this question has been asked with varying answers.   All make a case for their point of view, but for me, I’m going with the opinion of the science and math teacher that I grew up with and started this business almost fifty nine years ago now, Mack Porter, and he says, “Don’t fill your post holes with concrete”.

Here is the case he makes:  All concrete will do two things, guaranteed; hold moisture and crack at some point.  Both are bad things for the post that you are encasing in the concrete.

First, the moisture.  How many of you have a basement with a concrete foundation that “feels” dry?  It doesn’t have to leak or have water showing to have that moist feeling, but still it is.  Why is that?  Because concrete is rock, and all rocks have moisture in them and are porous.   More importantly, rock will absorb and pass moisture through to its dryer side.  PostIf you don’t believe me, try putting some water drops on what most would consider one of the hardest rocks, granite.  If it has not been treated, it will soak up the water and you will notice a darker place on the granite.

Second, the cracks.  Everyone has some concrete poured somewhere around their house. Have you ever had a slab of flatwork, sidewalk or foundation that didn’t have a crack in it somewhere?  No, it’s impossible. No matter how strong a mix or how much steel you put in it, it will crack somewhere.  It has to.

So let’s apply this to your pour, unsuspecting post, pole, 4x4, or 6x6 that you are using. Moisture is woods natural enemy.  Along with its accomplice, air, moisture will take down that piece of wood.  Now I know you did the right thing and you bought treated wood for your post.  That does help, and it will prolong the woods life, but no treating solution will stand up to a CONSTANT attack from air and moisture.  That happens at the ground level.  With concrete holding the moisture against the wood, wood has no chance and will eventually lose the battle.  Now you don’t have to lose all hope because it’s for certain that the concrete around the post will crack, therefore making it easy to pull out when it starts to rot.  Even worse, the concrete cracks early.  Now the concrete is like a bucket around the post, filling up with water every time it rains.  Now you’re heading for a rotten post in a sloppy hole.  YIKES!

How did we get here?  How did it become accepted practice in construction to fill postholes with concrete?  Here’s what I think.  Before packaged concrete came along, Sakrete and Quikrete being the two big names, we would recommend to customers to put a concrete block in the bottom of the hole to keep the post from settling or sinking.  Then when Sakrete came out, we would recommend you pour some in the bottom of the hole to set the post on, replacing the block.  Of course, being guys, more is always better right?  So why don’t we just fill that hole up with concrete?  Boy that’s got to be better doesn’t it?  Solid as a rock!  It’s not goin anywhere!  Sound familiar?

So what do you do instead of concrete, gravel?  A lot of people will throw rocks at this method (sorry) but using gravel does a couple of things.  First, it lets the water drain away from the wood right on down into the ground.  No water, no moisture, no rot! COOL!  Gravel is also like a good defense in football.  It bends, but never breaks.  Have you ever seen some of these skyscrapers in California during an earthquake?  They are dancing all over the place when the earthquake happens, but rarely do they break.  Even better, watch the wings of a jumbo jet at takeoff.  You would swear they were going to flap like a bird during takeoff.  Again, bend but not break.

So remember, if you want concrete mix and Quikrete is what we carry, we’ve got it for sale and we’ll be glad to load it into you truck for you, but ask the guys at the service counter for some gravel, and when I say gravel I mean limestone chips of any size, not pea gravel.  We should have it too and I think you’ll be happier in the long run.

Kent Porter

Porters Building Centers

Power Washing

“I’ll Just Power Wash It”

How many times have I heard that?   Five of the most destructive words that have ever been used around a house. Power washing seems to be the answer to any project. Whether its painting, staining, applying sealers or just plain dirty, a power washer always works its way into the process. Keeping in mind that almost every material that is used around your house is made of a porous material, such as wood and yes even concrete, power washing may not be the best idea.

Where was the first power washer that you ever saw used? The car wash. If you’re washing your car or a boat or any hard, non-porous and non-organic material, the power washer is the tool!

One application for a power washer that I understand and I’ll give you a pass on is siding before painting. I HATE TO SCRAPE PAINT, so I’ll buy that one, but only if you let the siding dry completely before painting. Maybe as long as forty eight hours depending on the weather.

The WORST place to use a power washer is on a deck made of composite materials. I’m talking about material like Trex, TimberTech, ChoiceDek, Evergrain just to name a few. I’ve had customers call and say, “there was black spots on my deck so I power washed it. Now the deck is warping, swelling and popping the screws.” What I would like to say is, I wonder why, since you just injected it withpowerwasher who knows how many pounds per square inch of water. Most every manufacturer will tell you DO NOT power wash a composite deck. Instead, use a deck cleaner. I have personally used the Olympic Deck Wash with good success on my deck. You do have to give it a scrub or two but really, it’s not that bad. It should get rid of the black spots, which are mold, for around a year. We have a new product in stock at Porters that I want to try. It’s called Bravo from Encore Coatings. It’s supposed to seal composites and make them less susceptible to mold stains while restoring the deck to its original color and luster.

All wood decks are more forgiving to the power washer but still, damage can be done to the wood with a power washer. You want to get it clean before you put on the stain, but did you ever think that by power washing the wood, you are also tearing down the fiber of the wood? The result of that, splinters! Whatever happened to a little scrubbing and a thumb in the end of a hose?

So guys, holster the power washer. Don’t draw down on a defenseless deck, driveway or piece of siding unless you’re sure, there are no alternatives to power washing.

Kent Porter

Porters Building Centers

Tree Products

Who uses products from trees? We all do! Have you had a cup of coffee today? Received or sent any mail? Traveled in a car or bus? All these activities involve products from trees.

More than 5,000 items we use in our daily lives come from trees. Some are obvious: berries and fruits (like coffee berries), paper, pencils, and newspapers. Some are not: cellulose-based photographic film, bark in aspirin, fatty acids from trees in shampoo, and resin in your car’s steering wheel.

And, of course, trees provide wood–the only 100% renewable, recyclable, reusable, and biodegradable building product we have. Trees can be planted and grown in an endless cycle using the sun as their energy source. Here are more reasons why wood is so environmentally friendly:

• In part because of economic incentives to replant, the total volume of wood in U.S. forests is actually 25% greater than in 1952. Today, 37% more wood fiber is grown than is harvested in the United States.

• During the long growing period, trees grown for harvesting help clean the air. During photosynthesis, trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

• Wood biodegrades naturally. When it burns or slowly decomposes, it enriches the soil.

Source: Sierra Pacific

Don’t Buy Cheap Mulch

Don’t Buy Cheap Mulch

I’m writing this in December.  What a better time to talk about mulch, right?  Well this is the time of year that we have to order our supply for next year and it’s the conversation I had with my long time supplier that prompted this article.

We have always carried 100% premium cypress mulch.  I know a lot of manufacturer’s cypress mulch bags say “Premium”, but it’s just not true.  This spring, when you’re ready to spruce up your landscape, look at the bag before you buy.  If it says something like,

Premium Cypress Mulch     and other hardwoods

DO NOT BUY IT!  It’s Junk!

 It probably has 1% cypress in it, if that.  An easy way to avoid getting junk mulch is to buy it from someone that is in the business of selling lawn & garden products.  That means NO gas stations and NO grocery stores.  They wouldn’t know a good lawn & garden product if it fell on them!

So you’re probably asking, “What’s wrong with it if it says “hardwoods”?  Hardwoods are a great building product.  Your cabinets, furniture, maybe doors & trim or floor is made of some type of hardwood (the tree has a leaf, not a needle) but when it is laying down on the forest floor, hardwoods do two things, rot and attract bugs.  I have had recent experience with both traits.

My son bought a house this summer and he asked me to help him with the yard.  The previous owner had mulched with hardwoods.  Digging what was left of it out was nasty.  Just underneath the surface was solid white mold.  That did help us some.  Since it made the mulch stick together, it came out in big clumps instead of pieces.  Of course the insects and spiders “ran for the hills”, or the grass in this case when we disturbed their happy home.  A treatment of granular insecticide and new mulch and he was good to go.  Also my wife had some landscaping done at her building this summer and the landscaper used black dyed mulch.  All the “dyed” mulches are made from hardwoods.  So when I went to water for her one day I noticed something strange came “bubbling” to the surface.  It was termites!  Some might argue that they might have been there before the landscaping but this was an 18” long strip in a parking lot that had rock in it before.  There was no reason for those termites to be there.  I say they came with the mulch, but I can’t prove that.

A few more thoughts to leave you with:  My supplier (who sells cypress, cedar and hardwood) remarked about the first time he saw the dyed mulch was at a Kansas City Chiefs game.  “They had sprayed everything red.  I knew then what was coming.  Everyone wanted it next spring.  It’s mostly just ground up pallets.  It’s just crap!”  So this year, and for ever more, when it’s time to buy mulch, look for 100% cypress or 100% aromatic cedar. (You know, the stuff they use in closets to keep moths away)  Both are naturally resistant to bugs and will do a fine job with your plants.  If you need or want a color, use rock.

Kent Porter

Porters Building Centers

When We Leave Forests to Nature

Usually everything in Kent’s Corner is of my own creation, but I came across this article and thought that it belonged here too.  Few of us in the retail lumber industry think about what is happening in our national forests on a daily basis, and probably none of the rest of the public think about it at all.  This article is here to help inform.

Kent Porter


 

When we leave forests to nature…

By Jim Petersen, Co-founder, The non-profit Evergreen Foundation
2012


Jim Petersen is a co-founder and executive director of the non-profit Evergreen Foundation, and publisher of Evergreen, the Foundation’s periodic journal. He is a graduate of the University of Idaho, where he majored in journalism and broadcasting.
Jim is the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the 2003 Society of American Foresters National Journalism Award, for his work on “The New Pioneers”, Best Forestry Public Relations Program in the Nation, AFPA 1991; and Communicator of the Year Award, Montana Wood Products Association, 2004 for his leadership in the national forest health debate and many other awards.

 

“When we leave forests to nature, as so many people today seem to want to do, we get whatever nature serves up, which can be pretty devastating at times, but with forestry we have options, and a degree of predictability not found in nature.”
—Alan Houston, PhD Wildlife Biologist, Ames Plantation, Grand Junction, Tennessee, Evergreen Magazine, Spring 1997.

 

Take a moment to go back and re-read the quotation at the top of this page. Savor it. Consider its implications in a world overrun by environmental charlatans and other fakers who wear their phony green credentials on their shirt sleeves.
In the 50 years that I have been writing for a living, Alan Houston’s wisdom is easily the most important observation ever shared with me by anyone who knows anything about forestry or nature.
You can be forgiven for believing that Alan is a forester, but this is not. He is a PhD wildlife biologist, and he runs the forestry and habitat conservation programs at the Ames Plantation on the outskirts of Grand Junction, Tennessee.
Alan and I got acquainted during two memorable days in the fall of 1996. On our first day he toured me through the plantation’s 18,400-acre forest, an impressive reserve that he manages for quail, turkey and whitetail deer habitat. On our second day, we took a long walk through the woods east of Grand Junction.

It was October and the forest we were traversing was ablaze in neon-like reds, oranges and yellows. There was an old oak tree he wanted me to see if he could find it. Eventually, we did, and as we stood beneath its magnificent canopy he announced with some reverence that it was the tallest oak he’d ever found. He guessed it was about 400 years old, which meant that it was older than our country, older even than Virginia’s Jamestown Settlement, where America began.
“This tree will topple over soon and I will weep for it,” he said quietly.
I stood silently beside Alan, who I had only known for two days, not knowing exactly how to respond to the awful news that he would soon be losing an old friend. I assure you I was totally unprepared for the homily that came next.

“When we leave forests to nature as so many people today seem to want to do, we get whatever nature serves up, which can be pretty devastating at times, but with forestry we have options, and a degree of predictability not found in nature.” I was stunned by the biblical cadence of his words. Although Alan was clearly very fond of the old tree, it was merely a prop for the forestry lesson that was about to begin – a lesson I have since shared with hundreds of thousands of Evergreen readers.

What Alan wanted me to know was that there wasn’t a damned thing that he or anyone else could do to prolong the life of his favorite tree. It was old and it was going to die soon. He would miss it, for sure, but there were other trees in the forest including some that had germinated from the old oak’s seeds. A fall breeze or perhaps a bird had carried them off to who knows where. Just thinking about how the old tree had cheated death amused Alan, and it amused me too.

But Alan’s main message wasn’t about a tree that had cheated the Grim Reaper. We were there, at the confluence of 400 years of human and natural history, because Alan wanted to make sure that I understood that, in our post-industrial society, we can only get the things we want from our forests – clean air, clean water, abundant fish and wildlife habit and a wealth of year-round recreation opportunity – by first embracing the rock solid, time-tested certainty of forestry.

“Nature is indifferent to human need,” Alan said. “She – or He – does not care what you or I care about. To get what we want and need from our forests we have to manage them for the outcomes that are most important to us.”

I know of no place where this lesson is more exquisitely taught than at the Ames, which is best known not for its trees but for being the home of the National Field Trial Championship for All-Age Bird Dogs. Ames also hosts teacher conservation workshops annually. I can only imagine that most who participate are struck by the plantation’s natural beauty. But they are probably more startled by the news that all of the beauty that surrounds them is the result of the very direct and very disruptive influence of Alan Houston’s brand of outcome-based forestry. His mission is to produce the best quail, turkey and whitetail deer habitat in Tennessee, and no one who hunts at Ames questions the success of his towering achievement.

The best that can be said for our once well-managed federal forests is that they provide a startling and instructive contrast to the message of hope, growth and prosperity.  We have the Alan Houston’s of the world to thank for the abundance we find in America’s privately owned forests, large and small. We are all richer – materially and intrinsically – for their dual commitments to science and human need.