Get Ready for Fall With a DIY Fire Pit

Ahhhh, nothing is better than spending long fall evenings enjoying a gorgeous sunset and cooler weather with friends and family in your backyard. Oh, wait! It could get better … if you had your very own fire pit.

Far from being an expensive option, DIY fire pits are actually quite affordable and a relatively easy project for anyone to complete. Check out our quick guide and you’ll be roasting marshmallows over your own backyard fire pit in no time.

Getting Set

These instructions are for a fire pit with a 3-foot interior diameter that sits about 2 feet tall, but you can modify the instructions to fit your needs. Sink a length of rebar in the center of your fire pit, then use a 2.5-foot string and some spray paint to mark a circle. Dig out the entire area about 6 inches deep, then mark a second circle 12 inches inside the first. This will be the walls of your fire pit. Mix concrete and lay it in the foundation area between the two circles and allow it to dry for 24 hours.

Raising the Walls

Once the foundation is dry, layer approximately 2 inches of mortar and then lay stones, working in small sections all the way around. Build the outer wall using natural stones, and use fire stones for the inner wall. As you go, fill in any gaps with wet mortar while scraping away the excess. Stagger seams to make the walls more stable and to provide a more finished look to your project.

Once you have your fire pit the height that you would like, add approximately an inch of mortar and then capstones to the top that will lie flat and give you an even surface around the circumference of the fire pit. And voila! You have your very own fire pit.

Need help pulling together tools for this project or any other fun DIY projects this fall? Contact Ralph Helm Inc. Lawn Equipment Center for all your home improvement needs. We have the name brand equipment that you need to make your life easier.

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Spiffy Up Your Yard with Our End-of-Summer Maintenance Tasks

Spiffy Up Your Yard with Our End-of-Summer Maintenance Tasks

Summertime is fun time, and no one wants to spend their beautiful, long afternoons slaving away in the yard! However, when summer starts melting into fall, maintenance tasks are suddenly calling your name. Quickly and easily take back control of your wild yard with our end-of-summer maintenance checklist.

Clean and Protect Your Deck

Falling leaves and fruit from the previous year can have a real impact on your deck, and don’t even get us started on the summer sun! Get your deck back in order by checking for loose fittings and joints and checking the overall stability of your deck. Deck furniture scooting across the surface can negatively impact your finish, so see if you need to add a fresh layer of sealant to protect your deck before the harsh winter months.

Strip that Old Weather Stripping

Check around all your doors and windows, pulling off old or cracked weather stripping and replacing it with fresh, new sealant. If you love having bugs in your home or particularly enjoy an energy-stealing draft, give this step a pass. Or not.

Clean and Inspect Windows

Windows are one of the main places in your home that you’ll lose energy in the winter, so you want to be particularly careful that your windows are cool weather ready. Whether you’re inspecting windows yourself or asking a professional for their advice, it’s always in your best interests to keep your windows well-insulated.

Service Your Tools

Keeping your yard in picture-perfect condition is an unattainable goal unless you have the right tools for the job. Get ready to kick off cleanup season by servicing your leaf blowers, lawn mower or getting your chainsaw serviced. Ralph Helm, Inc. Lawn Equipment Center offers you the services that you need to make your yard work and life easier. Looking for new equipment and parts? We’ve got you covered there as well! Check out our Factory Promotions today to get the best options for your yard.

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Tree Recycling: What It Is and How You Can DIY

There is a wide range of reasons for removing a tree from your property. Its roots could be growing under and disrupting the paving in your yard, it could be growing too large for your property, or you may simply be changing up the landscaping of your yard. Whatever your reasons, you’ve got to find something to do with that tree after chopping it down. This process of repurposing a tree is called tree recycling, and there are many ways to go about it.

Basic Tree Recycling

If you leave your removed tree to your city or county’s waste management, it will likely get ground down into mulch or chopped up to use as firewood, depending on the area where you live. It may also get cut into boards to use as lumber for construction projects. Depending on the type of tree, it may also be able to be used to make paper. However, most of these processes are labor-intensive and result in the release of the carbon dioxide stored within the tree, adding to the carbon footprint of the tree removal.

Creative DIY Projects

Rather than going the traditional route for tree recycling, you can make great use of the tree’s wood for DIY projects around your house. For example, a long, straight branch can be repurposed as a railing or coat hanging rack. Smaller branches can become a beautiful, rustic pergola for your backyard. The trunk, if on the smaller side, can be used to create unique stools for your dining area or breakfast bar. If the trunk is thicker, you can use it to create the base of a table. All of these projects allow you to bring the beauty of nature from the outside to the inside of your home.

Get the Tools You Need

Ralph Helm Inc. offers a variety of lawn and garden equipment for sale and provides equipment repair services. With a new chainsaw, you’ll be ready to start working on these tree recycling DIY projects. Start browsing our selection of equipment so you can get started today.

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How to Choose the Right Trees for Your Yard

There are thousands of different types of trees, and each has its own unique set of attributes and benefits. So how do you choose the right trees for your needs? Read on to find out.

Consider the Weather

Some trees thrive in colder climates, while others prefer warmer locales. Think about the weather in your area and make sure that your preferred tree is equipped to handle the changing of the seasons.

Location, Location, Location

Where you plan on placing the tree can have a major impact on what type of tree is most appropriate. If you have power lines going over your yard, a tree that will grow very tall is not the best option. If you are looking to create an element of privacy in your yard, you’ll want to look for trees that are thick and lush around the base.

Take Soil Conditions into Account

As with the weather, the type of soil in your yard can greatly influence what types of trees will flourish there. Discuss this with the experts at your local nursery to ensure that your preferred type of tree will be able to get enough water and nutrients from your soil.

Trees for Decorative Purposes

If your main goal for a tree is to provide an element of beauty in your yard, look for a tree that flowers or bears fruit. You’ll want this tree to look great throughout the year, so try to choose one that maintains its flowers and leaves for as many seasons as possible, rather than only flowering for a brief period of time.

Get the Equipment You Need

Here at Ralph Helm Inc, we offer a broad selection of gardening equipment to help you keep your trees looking great year after year. Browse through our selection to find what you are looking for, or fill out our online contact form for more information about our products and services. We’ll be happy to help!

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How and When to Prune Your Trees for the Best Results

Tree pruning is the process of removing branches from a tree to enhance its growth or aesthetic value. However, improper pruning can damage the tree, potentially resulting in stunted or dwarfed growth the following season. Read on to learn about the best practices in tree pruning to keep your yard looking great year after year.

The Pruning Process

When it comes time to prune your trees, start with any obvious damage, like branches that have been broken due to storms or areas where you see evidence of rotting. Be sure to cut at the base of the branch, not in the middle. In many cases, this is all that needs to be done to maintain the health of the tree. However, if you are trying to guide your tree to grow into a certain pattern, you’ll want to continue by trimming off any branches that grow outside of that pattern to encourage the tree to grow back the way you want it to. Always take into account the natural growth pattern of a particular type of tree to make sure that you are not going against its nature. Step back periodically to inspect your work to ensure that you are not over-pruning.

When to Prune

The appropriate pruning time depends on the type of tree, but typically, the optimal time to prune is in late winter or early spring, before new growth starts. Wait until after the coldest part of winter has passed to preserve the health of the tree. For most trees, it is inadvisable to prune them during the fall, as they may not be able to withstand the winter. This practice is likely to damage the health of the tree and inhibit its growth.

Get High-Quality Pruning Tools

Here at Ralph Helm Inc, we carry a variety of pruning saws for you to choose from. Peruse our selection today to find the one that is best suited to your needs.

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Late Summer Lawn and Garden Tips for Homeowners

Maintaining a fresh, vibrant landscape and garden is a year-round process. So what does it take to keep it looking its best in the late summer? Here is a list of chores you need to add to your list.

Seed and Weed

If you have some dead patches or bare spots in your lawn, late summer is the time to start seeding. Combined with quality fertilizers, new seeds will have time to take hold in the ground, bringing your lawn back to life. This is also a good time to add some anti-weed solutions to your yard, to prevent the spread of weeds. In spring, weeds are likely to grow quickly, unless your lawn is treated in advance.

Plant New Trees & Shrubs

Given the temperate weather and soft ground, late summer is the time to plant fruit or decorative trees and shrubs in your yard. The hardware you’ll need for the process is minimal, usually consisting of a shovel, a bucket and a rake. It’s important, though, to add mulching when planting trees, along with making sure the root structure is exposed properly in the ground.

Keep Watering

Yes, summer is winding down, but there are still plenty of hot days ahead of us. Water evaporates very quickly this time of year, so make sure you’re keeping your plants hydrated. Your best bet is to water early in the morning before the hottest part of the day kicks in — this gives your plants the best chance at retaining the moisture.

Dig and Divide

End of August, early September is a good time to start dividing up your perennials. Anything that has stopped blooming should go. This will help keep them safe from pests and lawn diseases.

These lawn and gardening tips will go a long way towards keeping your landscaping fresh throughout the year. For additional information on yard maintenance and equipment, please contact us.

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Maintenance Tips to Make Your Yard Look Amazing this Summer and Fall

In early summer, many families are still scrambling to finish up school and after-school activities and may not be able to fully enjoy the beauty of their backyard. By the late summer and fall, however, people are headed back outdoors to enjoy the bright sunshine and warm weather before wintry winds set in. Wouldn’t it be great to keep your yard barefoot-worthy in the later summer months without becoming a slave to your grass? Check out our great maintenance tips that are sure to make your home a showplace this late summer and fall season.

Keep Soaking

Long, deep soaks are best for your lawn during the active growing season. Intensive watering is much more effective than frequent sprinkling, which can promote shallow root growth.

Raise it Up

While you may love the look of a close-cut golf course, clipping your grass too short can have a negative effect on growth patterns. Leaving your mower blade set to around 3 inches leaves a little more grass in place to push out the weeds.

Stay Tidy

Mulching is good, but large clumps of grass underneath your mower can cause rot, which can morph into diseases which will quickly spread across your lawn. Regular sharpening of your lawn tractor’s blades ensures a clean cut and good distribution of grass.

Filling In

Fill in any bare spots in your grassy carpet by first breaking up the soil and then sprinkling in grass seed. Top the area with some grass clippings to maintain moisture and water often until the seed germinates.

Raking Leaves

While well-spread organic material is great for your lawn, large clumps can cause your soil to ferment, which then causes gaping holes in your grass coverage. Keep leaves raked up and other debris mulched. Add some fertilizer if you’re in the northern part of the country so your lawn will be tucked in and ready for spring.

Keeping your lawn looking good can be very simple if you have the correct tools! Keep everything in good working order with services from battery testing to blade sharpening to mower service and more from Ralph Helm, Inc. Contact us today to learn more about our service options or to update your lawn maintenance equipment.

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Prune Like a Pro: Top 5 Tips for Amazing Shrubs

Things can quickly get dicey when it comes to proper shrub and hedge maintenance — too much fertilizer and you risk burning the delicate leaves, too much pruning and you’ll end up with something that looks like an 80s haircut gone horribly wrong. Well-maintained shrubs can’t be beaten as a way to edge your property and keep unwanted visitors and pets out of your space. But how can you keep things looking neat and trimmed without taking a class as a master landscaper?

1. Disease Prevention

Fungus can take hold before you know it and spread quickly through your evergreens, causing them to drop leaves, turn yellow or get unsightly spots. Prevent many diseases by limiting how much you water the leaves and water the roots instead.

2. Timing is Everything

See those light green delicate buds? That’s new growth, and you don’t want to prune when you’re seeing it! Pruning when your ‘greens are growing can damage the plant and cause it to take longer for the hedge to fill out.

3. Internal Cuts

Pruning should not just occur on the edges of the plant. instead, you should prune a few branches from the interior as well to keep the plant from getting too thick. Allow proper ventilation throughout the plant and let light reach the interior by using hand pruners to shear off a few interior branches at a 45-degree angle.

4. Choose the Right Plants

Selecting plants that grow to approximately fill your space is crucial. If you get an evergreen that naturally is bushy and you’re trying to fill in a narrow space, you’re going to be frustrated with constant pruning and the plant will never thrive as it should. Instead, find plants that are similar in size and shape to your desired location.

5. Cleaning Up

Once you’ve trimmed all those hedges and shrubs, you’re going to be left with piles of leaves that need to be cleaned up. Keep your leaf blower in great shape with a tune-up, and you can easily blow the leaves into a pile to be raked up.

Maintaining your shrubs doesn’t have to be a painful or intensive process. Just keep them trimmed and appropriately watered and you’ll be fielding compliments from the neighbors in no time! Ralph Helm, Inc. Lawn Equipment Center can provide you with the battery testing, maintenance and replacement parts that you need to keep your lawn equipment running smoothly and your yard looking good. Come by one of our Illinois locations today to learn more!

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Benefits of a Installing a Lawn Irrigation System

A well-maintained lawn highlights the home in a beautiful frame of green while providing additional space for children’s games and summer parties. One of the keys to good-looking expanses of green is proper watering, and one of the easiest ways to ensure proper watering is through a lawn irrigation system. Here are some of the benefits of installing an irrigation system.

Convenience

The routine for hand-watering quickly becomes tiresome. Once or twice a week, you have to get up before sunrise so the sun’s heat doesn’t make the moisture disappear. You need to take the hose from storage, uncoil it, and attach it to the faucet in front. After you turn on the water, you need to stand in different places in the front yard to ensure that you cover all of the lawn and plants. You must then repeat the process for the backyard before recoiling the hose and storing it again.

With a lawn irrigation system, the only time you have to set it up is during the installation. You specify when and how often you want irrigation to happen, and then the system conveniently and automatically waters your lawn with no further intervention from you. Some systems even contain a rain sensor that shuts off the sprinklers when it rains so you don’t waste any water.

Conservation

When you’re standing with a hose in your hand, how do you know how much water to use on a section of your lawn before moving on? You may underwater or, in most cases, overwater. A lawn irrigation system dispenses the right amount of water that you specify each time, which conserves the precious liquid. If the system contains a smart moisture sensor, it can dispense the right amount of water based on the wetness and dryness of the landscape.

Increase the Home’s Value

A beautiful lawn increases the curb appeal and value of your home. In addition, potential home buyers prefer the convenience of a properly installed lawn irrigation system over having to water the lawn by hand.

If you have questions, need more information, or are looking for equipment to keep your garden growing, please contact us at Ralph Helm, Inc. We’re ready to help you get the best out of your outdoor spaces.

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Summer Lawn Care Tips for a Beautiful Yard

Summer grants fairer weather and longer daylight hours, bringing everyone outdoors and offering the best-growing potential for grass and other garden plants. The season represents an opportunity to enhance front yards so they increase curb appeal and turn backyards into enjoyable play areas for kids. Rely on these tips to increase the beauty and utility of your lawn.

Water Regularly

Because summer excels as the prime growing season, regular hydration is essential to keeping your lawn green and healthy. Cover your grass with at least an inch of water either through manual methods with a hose, automatically through a sprinkler system, or with Mother Nature’s occasional blessings. Water during the early morning hours to give the soil enough time to absorb the liquid before the drying rays of the sun appear.

Mow at the Correct Height

A beautiful lawn does not require short grass. In fact, during the summer, taller grass can shade the soil to prevent weeds from appearing, reduce water consumption, and encourage deeper roots. Adjust the height of your lawn mower, which depends on grass type, and mow just enough so you don’t remove more than a third of the leaf surface at any one time.

Reuse Clippings

If you’ve been throwing your grass clippings into the yard bin to be taken away, you’ve been wasting a useful and free resource. If your mower collects these clippings in a bag, spread them out across the yard after each session. Otherwise, allow the mower to spread the clippings across the grass. These freshly cut blades provide additional shade while adding necessary nutrients.

Watch Out for Your Pets

Your four-legged friends enjoy a good lawn as much as anyone in your family. But cats and dogs are likely to use those expanses of green as impromptu or regular toilets. Pick up any waste as soon as it appears and dispose of it correctly. Brown spots may be due to your pets affecting the grass with their urine. Flood the area with water to dilute the urine in the soil and train your pets to use a pebbled or mulched area for their business.

When you need more information about lawn care or want a professional to take care of your green, please contact Ralph Helm, Inc, so we can help you.

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