April 15, 2018

Ignite LED Submersible Lighting by Anjon

anjon-ignite-led-pond-and-landscape-lighting

Ignite LED Lighting by Anjon

FREE SHIPPING

Anjon Ignite LED Pond and Landscape lightingWhen I purchased my pond kit, it only came with one submersible light. I was happy at the time, but now that everything is up and running, I wasn’t more. That’s the thing with this hobby, there is always one more thing you HAVE to have, and more lights in the water are no exception!

This is a 3 light kit that can be used in or out of the water. It comes with all the hardware you would ever need for just about any application. There is a base and ground spike, along with a post or tree cleat for mounting each light. I used them without any hardware, just placing them in the rocks and hiding the wire.

These are very well-made. They are made of solid polished brass, and have some weight to them. This is a three light kit. The lights are strung together in linear fashion with 5’ of wire in between them. The LED lights are of the soft white variety and give a warm glow above or below the water.

Energy efficient, each light is 1 watt producing 45 lumens of light. Bulb life is 40,000 hours. That’s 13.5 years, if they ran for 12 hours per day!

This kit comes with one 12-watt transformer, and a photo cell which turns the lights on and off based on darkness. Here (link to Amazon) is he best place to get this.

PROS:

+ Includes 3 lights

+ Includes photocell, for automatic on at dusk, off at dawn

+ 40,000 hour bulb life

+ Made of polished brass

+ Includes 15’ of wire from last light to photocell, then another 4’ from transformer to outlet

+ All mounting hardware is included

+ Warm natural light

+ Energy efficient 3-watt system

CONS:

-The lights are all strung on one line together

-Lights using the photocell stay on all night.

-Need a separate timer if you don’t want them on all night

Final Verdict

Backyard water garden gives the Anjon Ignite LED Lighting system 4.75 out of 5. The only reason it’s not a perfect 5 is for the simple fact all three lights are strung together. This limits their placement. However, one way around that is to use multiple kits for all your lighting needs. That is exactly what I may do in the future.

Check for the most up to date price here (Amazon link). Get them before the season starts, so you can enjoy them all summer long!

This is an awesome lighting system, that will hold up for years with solid dependability. Unlike a lot of the other lights on the market that are made of cheap plastic, you can feel the solid quality. I highly recommend these lights to anyone looking for a submersible lighting system that won’t break the bank. If you have personal experience with these or any other types of submersible lights, or simply have a question please leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

April 12, 2018

Pond Algae Control – UV Light Installation

pond algae control before and after

The Answer to Your Prayers

crystal clear waterYou go out to the edge of your pond, expecting to watch your fish gracefully swim about. Then you realize you really can’t see much of anything. Even in the shallow depths, all that exists is a fog of green! Pond algae control is a MUST!  Nothing is more frustrating than spending time, money and energy putting in a pond and then have it turn into pea soup in a matter of weeks. The green pond water you see is caused by free floating algae in the water.

Pond algae control can be a daunting task. I’ve tried various chemical treatments, with minimal to no luck. This year is going to be different! Below is a video of how I fixed my algae problem for good.

Crystal Clear Water – Two Letters… UV

Clearing green pond water without the use of chemicals was my ultimate goal. I picked up a UV light on clearance at the end of the season last year, and have been patiently waiting for spring to install it.  Below is a picture straight out of the sterilizer manual showing its effective light range:

UV light sterilization range

I am going to walk through a typical installation for a UV light. The purpose of a UV light in a pond installation is to remove any free floating algae, and kill various parasites that may be present in the pond water. When selecting what light is best for you, be sure to calculate the size of your pond in gallons. If you don’t know the formula or how to calculate the size of your pond, use our pond calculator.

Once the size of your pond is determined then you can size the light accordingly. It’s better to have a more powerful light than a light that is under powered for proper functioning.

When You Tried Everything

The use of a UV light was a last resort for me. I had an algae problem last year and it turned my water to pea soup. The only time I saw my fish was at feeding time, when they came to the surface. The algae does not harm the fish, but it makes me mental!

Below are the various ways you could potentially hook up your UV light. The setup I used was based on the layout of my pond. There are many ways to implement the use of a UV filter based on your ponds configuration. Here are three different configurations based on pond size. The pictures are from the UV light manual. Click here to download it.

Example #1

For ponds that are smaller, typically 1,000 gallons or less. These types of ponds usually have a pump in the bottom of the pond. Just be sure there is some sort of prefilter to stop large particles of debris from getting lodged in the light.

small pond UV light setup
Example #2

For medium-sized ponds, generally ranging from 1,000 to 5,000 gallons. This set up is for the use with a skimmer box and a waterfall unit. This is the setup I used in my pond. It works well because the water passing through the light has already gone through the skimmer box and has been filtered.

Medium pond UV light setup
Example #3

For larger ponds, 5,000 gallons or more. These setups have a bottom drain and skimmer box, along with multiple return lines to keep the water circulating.

Large pond UV light set up
The diversion manifold seen in example 2 is necessary to ensure proper flow rate through the light. Most waterfall pumps are too powerful to pump straight through the light thus reducing its effectiveness.

Green to Clear in 3-5 Days… Guaranteed!

It is important to understand the proper flow rate through your lighting system. If the rate is too high then the light cannot do its job effectively. The flow rate must be at or below recommended for this guarantee to be honored.

My return line is 2” (Line from skimmer box to waterfall), so I wanted to maintain that, and divert some water through the UV filter. By adding the PVC ball valves, it allows me to have more control over the whole system. I can now slow my waterfall down to a slow trickle if that’s the mood I want to set.

The flow rate through this particular filter is 589 – 983 GPH. My pump is running at 5200 GPH, so putting the light straight in line with my return line will not be effective. It is necessary to divert some water to flow through the light at a reduced rate. By diverting some water through the light, there was no real noticeable difference in water flow from the waterfall.

Before You Change Anything

Keep in mind that every time water that is pumped through your system goes through a 90 degree turn it loses some power. Keep this in mind if you plan on taking your return line through a lot of 90 degree turns.

Below are the specs for this particular brand of UV light. Always be sure to check the specs before purchasing. I used a 40 watt light because my pond is approximately 2,700 gallons.

UV light specs
The main line is a 2” line, while the lines that run through the UV filter are reduced to 1.5”. This is because the water flowing through the light isn’t 100% of the water in the system. The light used has a specific recommended flow rate. It is large enough to handle the flow through the filter without being too large.

Another Option

A submersible light is another option for people that my have everything in place and don’t want to disturb the surrounding landscape.  This submersible light can be placed directly in the water.  It will require its own pump, or water could be routed through it using the existing plumbing.  Just be sure to get the proper size for your pond and be sure the flow rate is not too fast so the light can do what it was designed to do.  If your flow rate is too great the light will not be as effective as it could be.

Follow up

It is recommended that the light bulbs be changed every 13 months of operation. That gives me 2 years of bulb life. If you live in a warmer climate where you can enjoy your pond longer than 6 months a year, you will need to change the bulbs more often. SO…. drum roll… Here are the results!

UV light before and after
As you can see, the light has been really effective! I am super pleased with the results. I recommend this to anyone with a pond who wants crystal clear water. Once this light is in place, pond algae control is a thing of the past!

If you have any questions about installing a UV light, or would just like to share your own experiences, I would love to hear from you. Please leave me a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks for reading.

April 3, 2018

Gardening With Clay Soil

gardening in clay soil

If you’re like me, then you just can’t wait to get out to the garden. Whether it’s aquatic plants or the surrounding landscape, it makes no difference it all adds beauty to what you see. One of the challenges we face as gardeners is dealing with the hand we are dealt. We are not hostages to the land we plant on, in other words just because you may have clay soil, or sandy soil or whatever the challenge, there is no reason you can’t have the garden of your dreams. The short video below gives a quick overview of what clay soil is, and some quick tips on how it can be improved.

Three Major Types of Soil

Sandy soil – This soil is made up of large granules, that allow for air and water to pass through them. Because of the larger spaces between the particles, water passes through much easier. This also leads to this type of soil drying out much faster than the other two. Sandy soil requires more watering as well. It has no ability to hold water and as a result many of the nutrients are flushed out. As a result, it requires constant lighter applications of fertilizer. This soil stays loose and crumbles easily.

Loam soil – This is the ideal soil for gardeners. It has a great balance of sand, clay, and organic matter. It has the ability to absorb water and contain it, and at the same time releases it freely. Most soil leans to one side or the other, such as sandy loam, or clay loam. It all depends on the predominant particles.

Clay soil – Now for the topic at hand.

One major problem when dealing with clay soil is that most plants don’t have the root strength to push through the tough clay soil to thrive. When bulbs are planted in clay soil they have a tendency to rot over the winter months because of the soil condition.

Believe it or not clay soil is actually more rich in nutrients than most other soil types. In clay soil the particles are negatively charged, which in turn attracts positively charged particles like magnesium, and potassium However, the cons far outweigh the pros. These properties of clay soil include:

  • Has a tendency to heave due to changing weather conditions
  • Warms up slowly in the spring
  • Poor drainage
  • Compacts easily making it difficult for roots to break through

The Good News

clay soilClay has some great benefits as well. Unlike sandy soil which allows water to pass through, clay can be used to dam water and keep it from escaping. This is due to the formation of the clay particles. They are much smaller than sand. Because of their shape, and size they align with each other and bind creating an almost water tight seal. Because of its characteristics, the “disadvantages” could be advantages. For instance, clay having poor drainage makes it the perfect material to create a pond base with. On a large scale the clay will hold the water from leeching out into the surrounding soil. This will not work as well for smaller ponds like the one in the DIY section, but if you are looking to put in a large scale pond with a natural bottom, clay is the first choice for the surrounding material.

Another way clay could be used to your advantage is clay is ideal for making dams, and directing the flow of water. It’s the perfect candidate to use to guide excess runoff water during the rainy season.

If you are digging in clay soil, be sure to allow it to dry out before you do. When digging you will only compact the clay together if it is wet.

What Does Clay Soil Mean to My Plants?

First off the pH of the soil is measured on a scale from 0 to 14. This makes 7 neutral, anything below 7 would be considered acidic, anything above 7 would be considered alkaline. So what does all this mean to the gardener? Well, the pH has a direct effect on how soluble certain minerals and nutrients are in the soil, which has a direct effect on how well certain plants will grow in that soil.

The more alkaline a soil is, the harder it is for minerals and nutrients to dissolve in that soil. In order for plants to get their minerals and nutrients they must first be absorbed into the soil, creating a solution the plants can use. One benefit of clay is because of its plasticity nature it is easily mixed.

The fact that clay is mostly inorganic doesn’t make it a good candidate for planting, however it can be improved dramatically by adding organic material to it.

Plants For Every Soil Condition

Here are some recommendations for what types of plants prefer which soil. This is a compressed list and a general overview. The soil types are based mainly on pH of the soil and what nutrients and fertilizer should be used for each type of plant

Acidic soil Loving Plants

Plants that prefer pH of approximately 5.5 which allows easy absorption of nutrients. The list of plants that prefer this type of soil is extensive. This is just a short list of plants that prefer this type of soil. If the soil you are trying to plant in is more alkaline, then it is recommended growing the following plant in either containers, or raised beds. Acid loving plants are most prevalent in the Pacific Northwest, and the Eastern parts of the United States. Here is a short list of plants, shrubs and trees that flourish in acidic soil:

PlantsRhododendron

  • All types of ferns
  • Japanese iris
  • Begonia
  • Trillium

Shrubs

  • Azalea
  • Rhododendron
  • Blueberry

Trees

  • Japanese dogwood
  • Eastern white pine
  • Maples Weeping willow
  • Canadian hemlock

Plants that thrive in alkaline soil

These are plants that can tolerate a more alkaline or clay like soil.

PlantsMorning glory

  • Morning glory
  • Crocus
  • Geranium

Shrubs

  • Lilac
  • Forsythia
  • Juniper
  • Butterfly bush

Trees

  • Green ash
  • Maple
  • Douglas fir
  • Bur oak

Before You Start

Before adding any type of fertilizer to your soil it is recommended to get a soil test done to help guide you as to how to improve your soil quality depending on the plants you desire to grow. It is recommended to get your soil tested every three to four years. These tests generally run around $30 depending on where you have it done. Once you have the test results, determine how much of what kind of fertilizer to use based on the charts below. These charts are from Colorado State University. http://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/fertilizing-the-vegetable-garden-7-611/

soil test resultsJust Wing It

roll the diceHowever, if you choose not to get a soil test done, then it is recommended that you don’t over fertilize. Periodically add small amounts of nitrogen to the soil throughout the growing season (every 4 – 6 weeks) to promote healthy growth. Adding other nutrients my actually hurt your plants if there is an overabundance of one nutrient over another. For example, an overabundance of phosphorous will cause a reduction of the plants ability to absorb iron.

Most vegetables prefer neutral soil rich with organic material. There are three elements that fertilizers are typically measured in. They are labeled by number. The first number is nitrogen (N), the second number is phosphate (P), and the third represents the potassium (K). For instance, 10 -10 – 10 has equal amounts of all three nutrients. A common recommendation for planting vegetables is to fertilize with 1 pound of 10 – 10 –10 per 100-foot row.

There are special fertilizers for specific plants. If you are planning to fertilize your juniper bushes for instance, be sure to use a fertilizer for acid loving plants. This will help maintain the pH of the soil.

Final Thoughts

There is a little more to gardening than just digging a hole and placing a plant in it. If you follow the guidelines above, you should be successful at all your gardening endeavors. If you have any comments or advice, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Happy gardening!

March 25, 2018

Outdoor Rattan Furniture -What to Know Before You Buy

outdoor rattan furniture

Outdoor Rattan Furniture

So, you’ve done all the heavy lifting. You’ve planted all your flowers and plants. The gardens are weeded and mulched. You are finally at that point when it’s time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. When you look around, the closest thing you have to a comfortable chair is an old tree stump. You need to add some finishing touches to your outdoor living space. Time to get some comfortable furniture to sit back in and just enjoy your space.

Before you settle on authentic rattan furniture there is a few things you should know. Rattan and wicker are sometimes used interchangeably. The fact is that rattan is actually the material that the furniture is made of, where wicker is how it is woven together. Rattan is an extremely strong woody vine that grows in the jungle. It is know to reach heights of 100 feet or more. The woody vines vary in diameter from one to three inches. The vines are then steamed so they can be shaped and woven.

sunrise on the backyardThere is no doubt that rattan furniture is beautiful, however the problem lies with where it is used. If it is left out in the direct sun it will fade and start to break down. The natural rattan would be best suited under an overhang, or on a back porch where it isn’t exposed to the directly to the sun. This furniture is very versatile in that it can be used indoors or out, you just don’t want to leave it out on your pool deck all summer.

The set below is a great alternative to authentic outdoor rattan furniture.  It’s not just inexpensive garden furniture, this set has tremendous value.  That’s probably why it’s a #1 bestseller.

4 peice rattan set
dimensions

Lowest price: Amazon

If all you are looking for is the look of rattan, there are many synthetic alternatives that can stand up quite well to the summer sun. This solid 3 piece bistro set below for example, is the perfect size for a small deck or patio yet the chairs are wide and comfortable. The chair dimensions are: 30″ deep x 36″ wide x 31″ high. They have a powder coated iron frame, so they are built to last. The beige cushions will go with just about any decor and are made of weather resistant polyester fabric.

wicker bistro set

Who is This For, really?

First let’s look at our first criteria, size. Is size important? That’s the age old question that’s been puzzling man for centuries… Ok, get your mind out of the gutter, I’m talking about family size.  On average what size group of people do you entertain? If it’s just you and your significant other, then perhaps all that is needed is a quaint bistro set made for two. Just large enough for two large cups of coffee to sit by the water garden and enjoy in the morning sun.

Bistro sets come in all sorts of styles, like the one below for a more elegant modern feel. Picture yourself relaxing at the end of the day with a nice bottle of wine enjoying the beautiful sunset. The cushions are beige weather resistant fabric. The table and chairs have an aluminum frame, and the chairs have excellent lumbar support.

3 piece out door patio set
If you have a large family and need room for everyone then we are talking a whole other animal. Maybe you do have a large family, but you and your mate need that quiet time away from everyone, then again I go back to the bistro set.

Get Peace By Design

This sends a message to the others that you need to be left alone. Most of the time this works, and that’s coming from experience. When the kids see my wife and I at the small table they don’t bother us. There is no place for them to sit and join us. It’s a clever technique called the un-vitiation. The kids get the picture wink, wink. There are lots of sets to choose from. If the total wicker look isn’t your thing then how about these sturdy sets? Both are made with a powder coated steel frame. The table has a tempered glass top. Seat dimensions are: 24″D x 24″W x 28″H The reversible cushions and pillow are made of
3 piece bistro set3 piece bistro set
If you don’t have many people to entertain on a regular basis… you need to make more friends! All kidding aside, you will need enough seating for your typical band of guests. If you’re single you still may have a few friends over at a time, my suggestion is having enough seating for four at all times.

Where do You Entertain Most?

When people come over, or you are relaxing outside, where do you most often wind up? Are you out on your patio, under a large shade tree, out by the pool, or by the edge of your pond or fountain? These are all important because they will play a role as to what type, and how large your furniture set should be.

If you find yourself on your covered back porch, then you could use authentic rattan furniture. It will hold up nicely and suit you well. If space allows, get the largest set you can comfortably fit in your space. The wooden chat set below is the perfect addition to any patio or deck. It creates its own conversation corner in your outdoor space.

Once you have your location set, the next thing to take into consideration is your climate. Do you live in a warm climate where the furniture you get can be left out year round? I live in a place where we get to enjoy all 4 seasons. That means packing my outdoor stuff away for the winter months. Do need something that can stand up to winter and not have to be put away for the season? There are some pretty sturdy sets out there but they cost quite a bit more. If the ease of maintenance is the key for you then the price might not bother you.

Something For Any Lifestyle

No matter what your taste, there is an outdoor furniture set for everyone. Whether you live on a farm with rolling hills, or a high rise with a tiny balcony, you can find something to meet your taste. I hope you found this article helpful. I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment, or question below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Top 6 Cheap Garden Path Ideas

flagstone path

These top 6 cheap garden path ideas will certainly set your outdoor space off right.  Keep in mind that not all the listed garden paths listed will work for every environment. Obviously the garden that you enjoy in Southern California or Arizona will be much different from the one in New York. Keep this in mind as you decide on the materials you choose to create your garden path.

Garden Paths – Don’t Need to Be Paved with Gold

streets off gold If you’re like me and can’t wait for the last bit of snow to melt so you can get back outside, then, you’ll agree that it’s a big pain to deal with the rainy wet seasons of spring and fall. There is nothing worse than walking out to your favorite spot in the garden, but the only way to get there is to trek through the mud, or turn your once beautiful yard into a muddy path.

The path is also an important part of your garden. It helps to guide the garden visitors through a selected journey so certain things can be highlighted, and brought into view. Certain specimen plants that may have been passed by are brought to attention, to be fully appreciated.

The time it will take to create these paths depends on the materials used and the size of you path. Listed below are some great ideas to help get your wheels spinning. They start out simple and inexpensive, and get a little more complex as you go down the list.

My Top 6 Garden Path Ideas.

mulch path#1 Mulch Path

This can be done easily by getting some landscape fabric and laying it down where you want your path to be. For a border you can either use landscape timbers, or even some long thin logs to line either side of your path. Once you have the border set in place, cover the landscape fabric with mulch. This provides a soft foot path to your garden, without having to scrape the mud from your shoes when you get to your destination.

gravel walkway#2 Gravel Walkway

A gravel path can be an effective way to get from here to there. If you are going to make a gravel path, be sure to put landscape fabric down before you place your gravel down. This will help it from “absorbing” into the ground. This is a great path idea, especially for a long and winding path through the woods.

tree trunk path#3 Tree trunk path

If you have any fallen trees, or plan on trimming any large tree branches you can cut the logs into disks, about 2 inches thick. These make great paths that won’t hurt your feet if you walk on them barefoot. If you are worried about them rotting in the ground, you can always treat them with either deck stain, or water sealer. This is a very cost effective way to create the natural path to your destination. This type of path can either be dug into the ground to keep the surrounding grass intact, or simply surrounded by mulch.

board walk#4 Board Walk

This is a simple utilitarian path, that also looks natural. Simply place 2 x 6’s on the ground cut to the width you want your path to be. This will elevate you above the mud or water that exists during the wet season. This path will last for 5 to 10 years before it will need to be replaced. Using pressure treated wood will help with its longevity. These boards Should be dug into the ground to keep them from wobbling.

home made stepping stone#5 Concrete Stepping Stones

This is for the do it yourselfer with more of a creative flair. Concrete is great because you can make it into any shape you please. We did this when my kids were little years ago. Each child had their own stone they created for the garden. Be sure you and your “helpers” are wearing rubber gloves for this project. The Portland cement in the concrete mix will damage the skin on your hands. This is a great family project that everyone can take part in.

1. Line a 5-gallon bucket with a garbage bag. This enables you to reuse the bucket when you are done.

2. Mix up enough concrete mix to fill the bucket 2” – 3” with concrete.

3. Let the concrete set up for 20 minutes or so, then begin adding things to the top. Use polished glass, seashells, even bottle caps, anything you can think of to customize your stone. The kids love this, and I have to admit, so did I. At this point even a hand print would work great.

4. Let the stepping stone cure for a day or so, then pull the plastic bag out of the bucket, and viola, instant unique stepping stone. You can get 3 or 4 out of one bag of concrete depending on how thick you make them.

#6 Flagstone

flagstone walkflagstone in grassnatural flagstone

This is my favorite material to use for a garden path. Not only is it easy to work with, it also looks amazing when it’s finished. This is as natural as it gets. The flagstone walk can either be dug into the ground to keep the lawn surrounding it intact, or filled with pea gravel, sand, or even dirt so moss can grow depending on the climate and the location of your path.

If you plan on using flagstone for a walk or even a patio, check out the article I wrote on how I built my flagstone patio.

flagstone and mortarAnother option is to lay the flagstone on a bed of mortar for a more formal look. If you choose to lay the flagstone in mortar, there are some extra steps you will need to take to make sure it holds up over time, and keep it looking its best.

1. Dig down 6” from your desired finished path height

2. Lay down landscape fabric

3. Fill the path with driveway stone

4. Compact the stone either with a hand tamper, or a powered one to reduce settling.

5. Mix up mortar and dump it over the gravel, be sure the mortar is mixed fairly stiff

6. Lay your flagstone on the wet mortar, using a level and a string line to keep everything moving in the right direction

7. Once the flagstone cures, mix up more mortar and fill in all the cracks between the flagstone. This gives the walk a very solid feel.

edgingEdging

Keep in mind that the edging you use for your path is just as important as the path itself. Edging is important if the path you create has material that can mix with surrounding materials. Just for the sake of easy mowing edging treatments are important.

If you are using a free-form path such as the flagstone with grass between, or the concrete stepping stones, then an edge treatment isn’t necessary. However, if you are making a flagstone path with pea gravel between, or the mulch path, then an edge is essential. It will keep everything in its place and make your path last longer before you may need to spruce it up. Let’s be honest, that’s what we all want right, high value and low maintenance!

Final Thoughts

Stepping into the garden should be an inviting summoning. The path to your garden as well as through it doesn’t have to be expensive. As you can see cheap garden paths can be made from a variety of different materials. The important thing is your garden should call out to be enjoyed. By creating a garden path, you will be giving visitors, and yourself a way to navigate the beautiful landscape while keeping everything in its place. If you’re like me, the garden may have started out small, but little by little it has grown and taken on a life of its own. If you have any suggestions, or would like to share some of your ideas, please leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

March 17, 2018

Weber Spirit E-310 LP Gas Grill – A Grill For Everyday Use

Spirit E-310 LP Gas Grill

Weber spirit e-310 grill

Anyone in the market for a new grill. This may be the one you’ve been looking for. It’s a perfect balance of price and features. With the Weber name you know you are getting quality. This mid-sized grill is built to last and will easily handle all your day to day grilling needs.

Overview

This is an affordable Weber grill with all the essentials that one could ask for. Large enough to roast a 20- pound turkey. The cast-iron cooking grates are porcelain lined to prevent food from sticking and are easy to clean. These grilling grates do not require seasoning. Cast iron is a great choice for grilling grates because of its heat retention capabilities. This grill comes complete with fuel gauge so you will never run out of fuel expectantly and leave your guests hungry. The grill shroud is porcelain enameled so it won’t rust, peel or fade. This grill features an electric crossfire ignition system, so all burners are lit at the same time. Providing an evenly heated cooking surface with precision control.

weber spirit e-310Features

  • Warming Rack
  • All metal cabinet to fully enclose propane tank
  • Fuel tank gauge
  • Porcelain coated cast iron grilling grates
  • Ignition crossover to light all burners at once
  • Two side “wings” large enough for plates, utensils and spices
  • Cast aluminum cooking box and shroud
  • 32,000 BTU
  • 529 square inches of total cooking space
  • Side wings fold down to make the grill even more compact
  • Three stainless steel burners

More Specs:

Dimensions fully assembled: 63 inches x 52 inches x 32 inches

Pros

+Cast aluminum cooking box will even outlast stainless steel in most cases

+Solid build

+One button ignition

+Precision control

+Grease management system

+Great customer service

+Engineered to create the perfect meal every time.

Cons

-No propane tank included

-No side burner

-Small casters to move grill

Check here for Best Price (affiliate link to Amazon).

Final thoughts

Grilling season is once again upon us, and this grill is a great choice for any back yard. It has all the features you need and the Weber name that is synonymous with quality. It would be the perfect addition to any backyard grill island (link to my article on building a grill island)

The price point won’t break the bank either. It is on Amazon’s best seller list for a reason. I like the Spirit better than the Spirit II, for the simple fact that it the Spirit hides the propane tank in the cabinet, where the Spirit II it’s out in the open.

The Weber Spirit is a solid grill, great price, what more could you ask for. If you have any comments on this grill, or recommendations for a different grill, I would love to hear about it. Please leave a comment below, and I will be happy to respond as soon as possible.

March 13, 2018

Outside Lights For The House

full moon

Creating the right atmosphere can easily be accomplished with the right outside lights for the house.  The right lighting choices can be one the best things you can do to your outdoor landscape. The lighting you choose has a direct effect on the feeling you get for being in the space. For instance, a spotlight on a very large tree may give a wow factor. While the soft light of a garden path gives a sense of “Follow Me”.

Outdoor lighting technology has come a long way. You can now turn your lights on and off change their color, or dim them right from an app on your phone. There are 3 major lighting categories. Each category having its own purpose. The three categories of lighting types are ambient, accent, and task.  Now let’s take a look at these three types of lighting and see how they can be used to bring your outdoor space to life.

Types of Lighting Around Your Home

outside ambient lighting for the houseAmbient lighting –

Ambient lighting is used for large or small areas to bring even lighting to the space.  Hanging fixtures, lamps and lamp posts, wall lighting, recessed lighting in structures, and spotlights are all examples of outside ambient lighting. Inside your home light reflects off the walls, therefore it is easier to create ambient light.

When in an outdoor situation creating ambient light may be a bit more challenging. One effective way to create ambient light outdoors is to shine light on a wall and “wash” it with light. By Illuminating the wall, It’s reflective quality will have a direct effect on the ambient light in the space.

Mounting a floodlight above the location so the light is cast down, Illuminating the entire area is a simple way to add ambient lighting outside.

Task lighting

Task lighting is exactly the way it sounds. This type of lighting should be without Shadows that can be cast on the task at hand. To light up an outdoor kitchen or grilling area for example. If light is placed directly behind the person cooking a shadow asked making it difficult see being done. To achieve this the light should be mounted above the subject and light up the entire work area.task lighting

Security lighting is another type of task lighting. Its job is to light up dark areas around the house and deter mischief in the shadows. Wall lanterns can be used on front porches to provide a welcoming feeling. At the same time, they add safety to correctly identify who is at the door.

accent lighting to bring the outside space to lifeAccent lighting

This is my favorite kind of lighting. This is the type of lighting that calls attention to certain features that you want to stand out.  It may be used to highlight a fountain or statue outside. This is also the type of lighting you would have along a winding path through the garden. The lights you see in the water of a pool, pond, or fountain are also accent lighting.

Automating Your Outdoor Lighting Systems

sunset skyThere are numerous ways to automate your lighting systems. First thing you need to do is decide what kind of control you want over your system. If you want things to just happen on their own, such as lights on your garden path turn on after it gets dark then you would set up your system using a photo cell. This will detect when it gets dark and automatically turn on your lights. It’s a set it and forget it type of set up.

timeAnother way to automate your system would be to simply plug everything in to a timer. This way you have the versatility to turn things on and off based on time and not on darkness.

Moving into The Future

For those of us that have moved to the 21st century, home automation is an intriguing curiosity. With devices like the Amazon Echo with Alexa, and Siri, voice activated lighting is the wave of the future. If you plan on going this route it is more of a commitment. The first thing to do is decide what you want your main control hub to be.

Amazon Echo Gen 2If you chose the echo, then third party brands of controllable devices will not require an extra command. For example, instead of simply saying “Alexa, turn on the bedroom lights” you would have to say “Alexa, ask Phillips hue to turn on the bedroom lights “keeping the commands as simply as possible. Keeping things simple is key.

Automating Bulbs

The easiest way to automate a light, is to use a smart light bulb. These are relatively inexpensive, at just around $15.00 each. The Phillips Hue is the best seller on Amazon, and with a price like this I can see why. They boast up to a 20-year lifespan, using LED technology they use less energy than conventional light bulbs. These bulbs are also suitable for outdoor use. LED lights actually work better in cold climates, so winter is not a factor for these bulbs.

phillips hueWhen using the Phillips Hue bulb, the switch to the light must remain in the on position at all times, and the on and off function will be controlled by the bulb itself. It accomplishes this by way of your bridge and device, in this case the Amazon Echo.

There is another way to control your system, by installing smart switches. These allow you turn things on and off by voice command as well. With a smart switch you will have more power to control things other than just lights. You would be able to turn on devices like a ceiling fan for example.

Before deciding that the smart switch is the way to go, understand that it requires some rewiring. The switches that I have installed also require a neutral wire be connected to them. That is how they get their power to operate. Installing a smart switch is not always practical, and in some cases not possible. But in the past, (when I started to automate my home) it was the only option.

One way around the smart switch is to use a smart outlet. These are simple outlets that connect to the Wi-Fi in your home and can also be controlled by devices such as Alexa. They are simply plugged into an outlet and the power is turned on and off by way of the plug itself. This is a great option for setting up lights outside. It requires no rewiring, simply plug it in, have your device search for it and away you go!

The Basics

I wish someone would have told me the following information before I started on my quest for home automation. If you are going to get set up your home for a lighting system, it’s important to be sure all of your devices are compatible. To begin you need three basic things:

1. A control or main hub – This is the brain of the operation. It is connected directly to your router and sends out the signals to your devices.

2. Communication – This is achieved with either your echo device or the app you use on your phone. This communicates to your main control hub what you want to do. Example: turn off the lights, or make the lights blue.

3. Devices – These are the things you wish to control. Switches, bulbs, outlets etc… Not all the devices are compatible with all control hubs. You should have an idea of what your main purpose is and what you are trying to control before choosing a hub.

If you are going to be using the Echo second gen, Echo Dot, or any other Alexa devices, you will also need the Phillips bridge to control all the light bulbs, and smart outlets. However, the Echo Plus does not require a bridge to work with the Phillips smart bulbs, the bridge is built in. The advantage of using the Echo Plus is that its two devices in one.

The Price of the Future – Cost Breakdown

So to get started here is a breakdown of price for everything you should need to get off to a great start. You can always add more devices later if needed. This is also a great way to have home automation, even if you are renting. If wifi outletyou move, you can take it all with you.

So for a total of only $227.95 you could get set up quite nicely with home automation.

Final Thoughts

No matter how you go about it, there are simple and inexpensive ways to keep those outside lights for your house shining bright. Something as simple as adding a photocell to your outdoor garden path lighting can really make a difference in the enjoyment of the space.

Moving forward at the pace we have been, the future is already here. Don’t be afraid to jump on board… it’s a lot of fun. If you have any first-hand experience or a preference with any of these home automation systems, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear what other people are up to and where the future is taking us.

March 8, 2018

Pond Maintenance Supplies

clear water pond

My goal is to help you achieve a crystal clear pond with as little effort as possible, so you have more time to sit back and enjoy it. The pond you have created is beautiful yes, but unlike a natural pond, it lacks the introduction of fresh water. In nature a pond is fed by a stream or spring, constantly introducing a fresh water source. As a result of that, other water is flushed away, taking with it waste and other toxins. Your pond is a closed system and therefore needs a little help to keep the ecosystem balanced. Here are some products that will assist you in doing that:

pond sludgeSludge

This is a problem that can take over your pond. It can also cause unnecessary stress for your fish. This nasty stuff, made up of debris, fallen leaves and dead algae that winds up in every nook and cranny of your pond. It robs the water of oxygen while its decomposing.


API Pond Sludge Destroyer

Sludge Destroyer is safe for pets and wildlife. This product is a super concentrated blend of barley and bacteria that removes sludge build up. It breaks down fish waste, leaves, grass clippings, and dead algae. When used on a regular basis this product will cut down on maintenance so you will have more time to enjoy your water garden.

Check here for the most up to date price (affiliate link to Amazon).

sludge destroyer


Oase Pondovac 4 Pond Vacuum

If you’ve tried the sludge remover and it just isn’t working fast enough, or you pond is extremely built up with sludge, then a pond vacuum may help you achieve that clean pond you dream of without draining the water, disrupting the ecosystem. This will remove pine needles, leaves, fish waste and excess dirt. Suck up waste and leave the discharge line in the lawn. This vacuum is safe to use on a pond with a liner, or a stone / rock bottom.

Oase Pondovac 4 Pond Vacuum CleanerCheck for the best price here (link to Amazon)


Barley straw

This is a natural algae preventative. barley straw does not kill algae, it only prevents it from growing, Just add this to the water as a preventative measure. As the barley straw decays it releases chemicals that are known to stop algae from growing. This is a very cost effective way to control the algae in your pond. Each of these bales will treat 1000 gallons for up to 5 months.

Barley straw

These work surprisingly well and I recommend them to all my clients. Pick yours up here (Amazon link) and keep your water clear all season long.


UV Clarifier

If you already have and algae problem and want to clear the water without the use of chemicals, a UV clarifier is the way to go. The Ultraviolet light (link to an article I wrote about UV lights) breaks the cell walls of the algae as it passes through the clarifier thus destroying it. Depending on the severity of the problem, the water should clear in 3 to 5 days, sometimes it can happen overnight. The model below is sized to sterilize 3,000 gallons. This is the size used for the pond in the DIY how to build a pond article.

UV clarifier


Pond Master Test Kit

This kit has everything you need to keep your pond healthy. It measures pH levels, ammonia, phosphate and nitrate to help you provide optimum water conditions to keep your pond at its best. This kit has enough supplies to run 500 tests. Simply add the specific test solution to your sample and compare the color with the provided chart. This kit is essential to make sure your water is at its best. Even if you eliminate algae, you may still have problems you are unaware of.

API pondmaster test kitBe sure you have the best quality water with the proper PH so your fish and plants will not only survive, they will thrive. Get your test kit here (Amazon link)


5 in 1 Pond Test Strips

For a quick glimpse into how healthy the water in your pond is, these strips are easy to use. Use these for weekly monitoring of your water.

API POND 5 IN 1 POND TEST STRIPS Pond Water Test Strips 25-CountYou can pick them up here (link to Amazon for the beast deal) and give yourself the assurance that you have great water quality.


Chlorine Remover

This is a must have for any pond owner. Use it every time you add public water to your pond to keep everything safe from harm. Depending on the size of your pond 10 oz treats 1000 gallons. If you are going to do a water change, this is necessary for the safety of your pond. Be sure to use it before adding any beneficial bacteria. The chlorine in the public water will harm the bacteria you add.

Get some before your next water change here. (Amazon link)


Beneficial Bacteria

This should be added on a regular basis throughout the season to keep your pond running smoothly. It will help with the breakdown of fish waste and boost your biological filter to help maintain balance in the ecosystem. The item below will treat one acre that’s 4 – 6 feet deep. Use once a week to give your pond that extra boost. One container will last an entire summer depending on the size of your pond.

beneficial pond bacteriaIf you aren’t using a pond vacuum to remove excess waste, this is the next best thing. Get some before your pond gets out of hand. Here (Amazon link) is the best place to find it.

In Conclusion

I hope this list of pond maintenance supplies has been helpful. The goal is to keep your pond looking its best with as little work as possible. With the use of these products you will spend more time enjoying your pond, and less time maintaining it. If you have any experience with pond maintenance and would like to share what products you use, I would love to hear about it. Please leave a comment below and I will be happy to get back to you as soon as possible.


March 6, 2018

Natural Pond Maintenance – Easy Steps For Minimal Work

spring pond clean up

spring pond cleanup

Wouldn’t it be best if you used Natural Pond Maintenance to get your pond back looking its best for the upcoming season.  It’s almost time for spring cleaning.  A chance to go through all of your mechanical and electrical systems and make sure everything will be running smoothly in the days ahead. Get your pond looking as good as the day you first started your waterfall.

If your pond looks like an old cup of tea, caused by leaves and other debris that have accumulated over the winter months. Now is the time to hit the reset button and bring everything back to its original luster.

Spring Pond Clean Up – Made Easy

autumnWhen the last of the snow melts and you start to get the itch to get out of the house and start breathing in that fresh air, you know it’s a good time to bring your water garden back to life.

My biggest problem is the climate where I live. Winter comes in quickly. It’s usually snowing before all the trees have lost their leaves. Because of this I am not able to complete a fall cleaning. I place a net over the pond in the fall to reduce the amount of leaves and debris that fall in. This works fairly well, however for me the spring is when the majority of my cleaning is done.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about pond cleaning in the spring. The fact is the most aggressive cleaning should be done in the fall before winter sets in. The reason for this is that removing dead leaves and sludge from the bottom is essential for your fishes’ survival during the winter season. If the pond freezes over, it caps it off and the gasses that naturally escape and evaporate into the air are trapped in the water. This increases the level of nitrogen, and the amount of oxygen in the water decreases.

Don’t Take Advise From Just Anyone

frog and butterflySome major brands that manufacture pond supplies recommend draining your pond completely to clean it for the season. This should almost never be done. In fact, it should be a last case scenario. Your pond should never be fully drained.

Test your pond water to see how “dirty” it truly is. Reasons to test your pond water are as follows:

  • The pond water looks like a cup of tea from leaves and other debris
  • The water is black
  • The water is green
  • There is an overabundance of sticks leaves and other debris settled on the bottom

Keep in mind that a spring cleaning isn’t one hundred percent necessary every year. If the fall cleaning was performed properly, it may only require minimal effort. Some people do every two years or so. It all depends on your personal preference, and how “bad” your pond needs to be cleaned. If you have minimal debris in your pond that can be easily cleaned out with a net and your water is still fairly clear, then by all means, just do some minimal cleanup and be done.

Spring Cleaning DON’TS

Your pond is filled with millions of microorganisms all trying to break down the sludge and other material in your pond. When you “spring-clean” your pond, its imperative that you don’t drain it completely. Even though your water may “look” dirty, you will be doing your pond a disservice if you drain it, and refill it. Doing this, resets the nitrogen cycle and takes that much longer for the bacteria to reestablish itself and do its job, maintaining a balanced ecosystem.

Do not drain your pondThe water in your pond should never be completely drained. Even draining half of the water will cause a reduction in the amount of beneficial bacteria, causing a reduction in the ability of your biological filter to work at its optimum potential. The ideal situation is natural pond maintenance taking place on its own.

If you have a pond that is heavily stocked with fish, frequent, smaller water changes may be your only option to maintain the water and to keep the harmful ammonia levels at bay. Fish produce considerable waste, mainly in the summer when their metabolism is at its peak. If your pond is over run with fish, small water changes are a necessary evil. The water used to refill the pond will most likely be from a public water facility which is loaded with chlorine. This will further eliminate the bacteria, and is harmful to fish. Just be sure to use a water conditioner that will remove the chlorine.

Spring Pond Clean Up – What to do

oase pondovac 4 pond vacuum cleanerUsing a net, remove as much debris as possible from the bottom of your pond. If you have considerable buildup of sludge on the bottom, you may need to use a pond vacuum like the Oase Pondavac to clean more thoroughly. This is a helpful tool and comes with various attachments to get into hard to reach places. This allows you to clean your pond with the water still in it. Once all the sludge and debris is removed, go ahead and check the water quality with a pond test kit. These are similar to the same kind of kits used for checking the quality of pool water, but instead they check for pH., ammonia, nitrate, and phosphate. Click here for products related to pond maintenance.

Make Pond Water Clear – And Keep It That Way

Pond skimmer boxThere are a few tools that will help keep your pond looking its best after you have completed your spring cleaning. The first is your skimmer box. This is your first line of defense against unwanted debris in your pond. It works continuously to remove material from the water’s surface before it gets a chance to settle to the bottom. Be mindful that the filter media in your skimmer box should rarely be cleaned. The beneficial bacteria that reside there, are doing their job and should be disturbed as little as possible. Cleaning out the net is necessary on a regular basis.

UV filterOne more consistent problem is the constant battle against algae blooms. To combat this, the use of a UV clarifier may be required. Follow this link to an article I wrote about UV lights.

This is the safest way to eliminate algae, without using chemicals. The light from the UV filter breaks down the algae on a cellular level, destroying it as it passes through. This device can be placed in line with your water return line. All you need is a few PVC fittings to divert some of your water through the filter, and you are in business.

The other way to control algae blooms is through the use of other plantings. This is the most beautiful way to eliminate algae. By having your pond planted heavily, this will reduce the amount of free floating nutrients, starving the algae, thus leaving your water clear.

Final Thoughts:

well planted pondIf your goal is a low maintenance, beautiful pond full of healthy fish and thriving plants, then be sure not to drain your pond. Do not listen to what the majority of pond equipment manufacturers say. Remember, they are in the business of selling equipment, not pond life biology. The maintenance of your pond should actually be less intensive than caring for the grass that was there before it.  If you have any tips of your own, or have any first- hand experience with spring cleaning your pond, please leave a comment below. Even if you disagree with me, I would be happy to listen to another perspective. I encourage you to leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

DAMO Variable Speed Stone Polisher + 5” Wet Polishing Kit

damo polisher

DAMO Variable Speed Stone Polisher + 5” Wet Polishing Kit for Concrete Floor / Countertop

Bring the life out in your project with the DAMO variable speed stone polisher.  You’ve meticulously built your form, poured and vibrated your concrete, and are left with nothing but a raw slab of concrete.  Are you ready to bring out the beauty and wow factor that your job deserves?  With this DAMO polisher watch the “magic” right before your eyes as you transform your masterpiece!

DAMO Variable Speed Stone PolisherFeatures:

  • Variable speed feedback system
  • Optimized gear ratios
  • Variable Speed 700 – 3,000 RPM
  • Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)
  • Garden hose / faucet adaptor
  • Lock on switch
  • Splash Guard
  • “C” handle
  • Side handle
  • Water control valve
  • Set of DAMO 5” polishing pads

Variable Speed Feedback System – This newly upgraded feature sends information to the motor to keep the RPM at a steady pace whether it is under a load or not.  This helps in maintaining an even finish throughout your project.

Optimized Gear Ratio – This redesign allows for increased torque output.

Variable Speed – This is a necessary feature when changing grits to achieve maximum smoothness on your finish.  The higher the grit, the higher the RPM.

GFCI – Keeps the operator protected from electricity leaks.  Always use caution when mixing electricity and water.

concrete polishing padsLock on switch, Splash guard, and side and “C” Handle – Allow for maximum control of the operator, while making it easier and more efficient to operate.

Water control valve – Adjust just enough water to keep the polishing pads from heating up.  Running excess water will create a situation where the motor could be exposed to water.  If this happens, as a safety feature the unit will shut down and not operate until the motor completely dries.

Set of DAMO 5” polishing pads – Set of 7 pads, grits included are as follows: 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1500, and 3000.

Pros:

  • Cost
  • Features
  • Easy to use
  • 5” disk diameter

Cons:

  • Temporary shut off if motor gets wet, causing down time until the motor dries.
  • Messy
  • Too small for doing a large floor
    1. horsepower

polished concreteOther Specs:

Weight 6.5 pounds

Dimensions 18” x 6” x 8”

120 volts, 800 watts, 7 Amps

Spindle 5/8 – 11

Conclusion:

Whether you’re polishing a small bathroom counter, or an entire kitchen, the DAMO hand held concrete polisher is the tool for the job.  Because of its size, it can get into hard to reach areas.  You can accomplish beautiful results at an affordable price.

The picture above is the finish you can accomplish using this polisher.  This is the result of polishing standard concrete mix.  This is the same polisher I used in the DIY polishing concrete countertops article.  It is a very cost effective tool, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to try and finish concrete for any reason, or application.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below and I will be happy to get back to you as soon as possible.  If you have any experience with this item and would like to leave your own review, please leave it below.

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