All About the Importance of Lawn Aeration

A beautiful lawn requires a wide variety of basic lawn care practices, such as fertilizing, watering and mowing. However, one of the most important tasks necessary for a beautiful lawn is aeration, which is necessary to ensure that much-needed nutrients find their way into the soil. Aeration is an essential element to a lush, healthy lawn because along with the nutrients, it also allows water and air to penetrate a layer of lawn thatch.

What is Aeration?

Aeration is the method used to create “pockets” or channels for air within the soil beneath the grass. These channels allow the water, nutrients and roots to move easier. If the grass is covered with layers of thatch or dried grass, it becomes compacted, making it extremely difficult for fertilizer and water to find their way down to the roots of the grass. Aeration relieves the compaction of soil, making it easier for the proper circulation of air, nutrients and water deep within the soil.

Does Your Lawn Need Aeration?

Not every lawn needs aeration, so here are a few things to be aware that will help you determine if aeration will be beneficial for your lawn.

  • Heavy use- if your lawn has a lot of heavy use, such as kids frequently running through it or the dogs are often outside playing, the ground is most likely compacted and needs aeration.
  • Your lawn was established by sod- soil layering most likely exists. Soil layering means the finer textured soil typically found in sod, is laid over the existing flat dirt, which creates a barrier between the two types of soil. The soil on the sod will typically “soak” up the water and nutrients, preventing them from reaching the deeper soil.
  • Lawn from new home construction- during the construction process, the existing topsoil is often stripped or buried, causing the grass roots to sink into the subsoil, which deprives it of its much-needed nutrients.
  • Dry, spongy grass- if your grass tends to dry out easily and/or it feels spongy, there is probably excessive thatch. Thatch is a layer of dead grass that builds up between the blades of grass and the soil. The thatch compacts, preventing nutrients and water from reaching the roots.

Aeration can help you achieve a beautiful lawn, but it is important that you use the correct tools and correctly do the task. If you feel your lawn could benefit from aeration, there are specially designed tools that can help to make the process go much smoother. Once you have completed the aeration, it is important to maintain the lawn with good lawn care habits, such as regular watering, fertilizing and appropriate mowing.

To learn more information about the importance of lawn aeration or about the best tools to use for the task, contact Ralph Helm Inc. Lawn Equipment Center.

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Landscaping Tips to Help Sell Your Home

Landscaping Tips to Help Sell Your Home

Staging can help improve your home value and sell your property more quickly because it makes the interior look bigger, newer, and more desirable to potential buyers. However, unless you make the exterior landscaping look just as appealing, buyers may never cross the threshold to see what’s available inside your rooms. Here are a few landscaping tips to help improve your curb appeal.

Prune trees and shrubs.

Dead branches, overgrown shrubs, and trees with unsightly shapes turns buyers off, no matter the season. Take time to shape your foliage with pruning so the green acts as a natural frame for your home. If any large trees or bushes block the architectural features of your home, consider cutting the plants down to size or removing them entirely.

Add color.

Color delights, surprises, and accents great swathes of green. The easiest way to add color is to plant blooming annuals. Groupings of flowers that are the same color have more visual impact than grouping of multicolored petals. But don’t be afraid of using different colors at different points in your landscape. Because color attracts attention, you can use it to lead visitors to specific parts of your garden, such as to a bench, water features, or viewing point.

Make repairs.

Wander around your landscape and view your exteriors, including your home, at least once. Look for areas that need repair, such as a broken stepping stone, torn window screen, or leaky faucet. Make these fixes yourself or get professional help. You don’t want homebuyers finding these problems because they tend to overestimate the cost of repairs and will mentally deduct those amounts from their offers.

Power-wash.

Rent a power wash from your local home center and clean up exterior hardscapes like your driveway, porch, and stone walls as well as the outside walls of your home. Freshly cleaned spaces look brighter, roomier, and more attractive. This is a cost-effective way of making your exteriors look new, if you can’t afford to repaint them.

Eliminate the clutter.

Children’s toys, pet accessories, or gardening tools that are strewn across a yard detract from the beauty of landscaping and may turn off buyers that don’t have children or pets. Put these items away before the first open house so all buyers see in the landscape are the greenery and hardscapes that belong there.

Mow the lawn.

A well-tended green lawn communicates to buyers that the owner takes good care of the entire property. So mow your green spaces regularly and fill any bare spots with grass seed. Contact Ralph Helm Inc. Lawn Equipment Center if you want more information on taking care of your lawn and landscape.

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Indoor Projects to do Before the Spring

It’s easy to hole up during the winter, assume that it’s too wintry to accomplish any home improvement projects and throw in the towel until springtime. But you don’t have to! Winter is the perfect time of year to tackle some of the indoor home improvement projects you’ve been putting off. The best part? Since you’re cooped up inside far more during the winter, you’ll appreciate your upgrades even more!

1. Bathroom Remodel

Whether you have a full remodel in mind or just a facelift, now is a great time to upgrade your bathroom. Updating the tile, fixtures, and even replacing your bathtub and flooring is a great small indoor project that yields big rewards. Imagine winding down from some cold snow shoveling in an oversized whirlpool bath in your newly updated bathroom. It’s the kind of project that pays off big time–in your own comfort and your home’s value.

2. Kitchen Update

Replacing your appliances, updating your backsplash, or updating your cabinet hardware (or all your cabinets!) all make great wintertime projects. You can’t beat the coziness of a refreshed, updated kitchen with new appliances to facilitate all the baking that’s bound to happen during the winter season.

3. Painting

If you keep waiting for the perfect opportunity to paint your living room, maybe this weekend is it! Painting is the least expensive way to completely overhaul the look and feel of a room, so enlist a few people to help and go for it!

4. Replace Light Fixtures

Old-fashioned light fixtures can age an otherwise lovely space in a heartbeat. Replace your out-of-fashion sconces and overhead lights with more efficient, more attractive options that fit your decor and style.

5. Make Over Your Closet

If you have to dig through a pile of stuff to find what you need in your closet, it’s time to make a change. Start by tossing all the clothes you don’t wear anymore, then consider adding shelving, hooks, shoe racks, or other storage solutions, so everything has a place. You’ll be amazed how much easier it is to get ready for the day when your closet looks nice and your wardrobe is organized and streamlined!

For more ideas for winter remodeling projects or help getting started on your list, check out our blog for more winter home maintenance ideas, and stop by Ralph Helm in person to talk to an expert! We have everything you need to make big changes this winter season–and we’ll help you make your home more comfortable and cozy than ever, even when the snow is piling up outside.

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Getting Stadiums Ready to Host the Super Bowl

Getting Stadiums Ready to Host the Super Bowl

There is so much more that goes into preparing a football field for hosting the Super Bowl than simply tending to the grass. In the days and weeks leading up to the big game, the field must undergo myriad tests to ensure that it is game-worthy. The ultimate goal is for the field to be as close to pristine as possible so that it creates a fair and safe environment for both teams. The last thing anyone wants is for the results of the game to be affected or for their favorite player to be injured due to an unsuitable playing surface.

Brand New Sod

For over 25 years, the National Football League has had a policy that requires new sod to be installed on the Super Bowl field before the big game. This ensures that the turf is as fresh as possible so that it can provide the best conditions on game day. The sod is specially grown for this purpose and has been meticulously cared for in the months leading up to the game. It is brought to the field in strips rolled up like carpet for easy installation, which takes about two days to complete.

Testing for Hardness

Within the last 72 hours before the game, the field is tested for hardness at several key points around the field. Any areas that do not meet the league’s strict standards must be fixed and retested before the game can be played. This test is even applied to fields with synthetic turf, measuring the infill beneath it for the same hardness standards.

Mowing Every Day

Once the new sod has been fully installed at the host stadium, it is mowed nearly every day to keep it in top condition. On the day of the Super Bowl, the head groundskeeper for the host field has the honor of being the last person to mow the field before the game.

Give Your Lawn the Super Bowl Treatment

Even if your lawn is nowhere near the size of the Super Bowl field, you can still give it the same level of care. With high-quality lawn equipment from Ralph Helm Inc., your lawn will be the envy of all your neighbors. Visit one of our three Illinois locations, or browse through our lawn care products online.

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Money Saving Home Improvement Projects For the Winter

Money Saving Home Improvement Projects For the Winter

Freezing temperatures and dreary days make it difficult to get outdoors during the winter. But winter is also the perfect time to roll your sleeves up and tackle a few of those home improvement projects you have been putting off. There is a wide variety of DIY projects that would be perfect for doing during the winter, especially projects that may help you save money. Here are a few winter weather DIY projects to help you get started.

Insulate the Attic

One of the most common culprits of high energy bills is a poorly insulated attic. Installing insulation in the attic is a relatively easy home improvement project, and it will help reduce energy costs because insulation helps to generate the heat throughout your home, keeping the house warmer.  If you notice the rooms in your home getting chilly quickly, you should consider inspecting the attic insulation. Replace layers of insulation that are damaged or missing.

Seal the Drafts

One of the least expensive types of home improvement projects that will help lower your energy bills is sealing up the drafts. Leaking windows and drafty doors mean the warm air is leaking out and the cold air is coming in. This causes your furnace to work overtime to keep your home warm. Check for air drafts at all of the windows in your home, the doors and even the electrical outlets. Use a caulking gun to seal gaps around the windows and walls, replacing old and worn weather stripping and install electrical outlet insulators to help keep you warm and toasty during winter weather.

Control the Heat

A programmable thermostat allows you to control the temperature in your home even when you are at work or sleeping. There are several types of programmable thermostats to choose from, but they all work on the same concept in that you can program the thermostat to lower the heat while you are away or asleep and to increase the heat just before you wake up or arrive home. They are easy to install and will help you lower your energy bill.

This is only a sample of the home improvement projects you can do during the winter to help you save money all year round. Even something as small as changing out the light bulbs to replace them with LED bulbs, will help you save money. It may take a little while before you see a large return on your home improvement projects, but over time the savings will add up.

Winter weather can be unpredictable so don’t forget to have all of your winter equipment, such as generators and snow blowers inspected and repaired if necessary. Contact Ralph Helm Inc. Lawn Equipment Center to schedule an inspection or repairs of your winter equipment.

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How to Protect Your Landscape in Winter

You spend all spring and summer pampering your landscape and then winter comes along and wreaks havoc on all of your hard work. While you can’t stop the snow, ice and cold, there are a few steps you can take that will minimize the damage to your lawn, plants and trees and help them to look their best when spring arrives. Here are a few ways to protect your landscape during the winter weather.

Fertilize and Deep Root Fertilize

It is recommended that you fertilize the lawn two to three times during the fall. This will help to strengthen the roots for the spring and when the top growth stops, use a mineral fertilizer to help supply the lawn with the essential nutrients it will need during the winter. Deep root fertilization used for trees and shrubs will help supply nutrients during the winter as well help to reduce the soil compaction which allows oxygen to effectively reach the roots, which will help to improve the overall health of shrubs and trees.

Protect Trees and Shrubs

Winter weather often brings with it high winds, which can damage tree limbs and ice covered shrubs. Avoid shaking the snow off of tree limbs and branches. They are already fragile, and the shaking can cause stress which can damage the limbs, preventing growth in the spring. Consider having trees and shrubs pruned and cabled during the fall to help minimize the risk of damage from storms and to help preserve the structure of the trees. Using a tree bark protector around the trunk will help protect trees from rabbits, mice and other animals as well as protect the trunk against splitting from freeze-thaw cycles.

When the leaves have all fallen, don’t forget to clean them up. Fallen leaves can prevent sunlight and moisture from reaching the grass as well as lead to mold growth and rot. When it comes time to de-ice the walkways and driveways, be cautious of the de-icing products you use, especially when using a snow thrower that may toss the products on the grass, trees and shrubs. Choose products that contain safe ingredients to avoid damaging the landscaping as well as to prevent cracks from forming in concrete walkways and driveways.

Contact Ralph Helm Inc. Lawn Equipment Center to learn more information about how to protect your landscape during the winter and to schedule an inspection of your winter lawn equipment to ensure everything is in top condition.

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You Don’t Want to Miss Out on These Early Bird Service Specials!

With winter in full swing and warmer weather still on its way, your lawn is probably the last thing on your mind right now. We understand; after all, there’s only so much that will fit on your plate at one time. Still, you owe it to yourself to take advantage of the incredible service and sale specials we’re offering right now. Here’s why:

  • Nothing puts a damper on your outdoor plans like mechanical problems with your mower, weed trimmer, or other lawn equipment. Yet the spring is not the best season to bring these items to the shop for servicing. High demand means you may have to wait days or even weeks before your repair is complete. That’s precious time during which your grass will continue to grow, weeds will spread, and your neighbors will wonder what’s going on.
  • Come spring you’ll have plenty to occupy your spare time besides lawn equipment maintenance. You’ll be bursting with ideas for beautifying every square inch of your property. A little advance prep will clear otherwise annoying tasks from your schedule now. You’ll thank yourself for your foresight in a few months when everyone else in the neighborhood is hustling to make up for lost time, and you’re kicking back enjoying yourself.
  • Even the most carefully maintained equipment eventually needs replacing. Now is the time to find out if your mower, tiller, weed trimmer, or other items are beyond repair when you can benefit from our pre-spring sale prices.

Here’s a Sneak Peek at Some of Our Deals

Ralph Helm Early Bird Specials

  • Right now you can get FREE delivery on new riding equipment. Why fight with that old mower or tractor for another year when you can enjoy the performance and reliability only a new item can bring?
  • You can SAVE 10% on all the parts you need to get your tools in tip-top shape for 2017. Maybe you’re a DIYer who prefers to do oil changes, blade sharpening, engine overhauls and similar tasks on your own. If that’s the case, then right now we’ve got the supplies you need for lower costs than you’ll ever see again.
  • If you’re one of our loyal customers who lets our skilled techs prep your lawn equipment for the season, then now is the time to give us a call because we’re offering FREE pick-up and delivery on your items.
  • Maybe you’re in the market for other types of lawn equipment besides a riding mower. If so, then you can save serious money thanks to our limited-time FREE delivery to your address.

 

Spring will be here before you know it. So act fast to enjoy these incredible bargains. Afterall, these deals only last until February 28th! See you soon.

 

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Tips and Tricks for Proper Snow and Ice Removal

Tips and Tricks for Proper Snow and Ice Removal

Shovel, plow, snowblow, salt, repeat. It’s a process that’s all too familiar. Did you ever stop to wonder if you’re removing snow and ice as efficiently and effectively as possible? Removing ice and snow properly will make your job a little easier and help ensure that you protect your home and landscaping without damaging your equipment–or breaking your back!

1. Treat Snow Shoveling Like a Workout

You burn upwards of 300 calories per hour on average while shoveling snow, and we’re guessing you can feel it in your shoulders afterward. To help prevent injuries, warm up your muscles a little before you start–just as you would a cardio workout. Make sure you stay hydrated while you’re working, too–just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you don’t need plenty of water.

2. Shovel or Snowblow as Soon as Possible

We know it’s not always possible to clear your sidewalk and driveways the second the snow stops falling. But avoid procrastinating as much as possible, and you’ll save yourself the trouble of trying to remove snow that’s iced over or drifted into more unmanageable mountains of frosty flakes.

3. Choose Your De-Icing Solution Wisely

Though salt is the cheapest and most commonly used de-icer on the market, you might want to consider using sodium chloride, instead. It’s easier on your property, won’t harm your landscaping nearly as much, and it works more effectively and more quickly than salt in lower temperatures. Investing in a spreader, even if it’s just a handheld one, will make the job easier and help make your de-icer last as long as possible.

4. Buy Some Traction Grit

Traction grit doesn’t melt ice, but it provides shoes (or tires!) enough grip to help get out of slippery situations. Traction grit is particularly useful on stone or brick pavers or walkways. Stash a bag in your vehicle, as well; if you get stuck, it might provide that bit of extra grip your tires need to get out.

5. Invest in a Snowthrower

When you have significant amounts of snow to remove, a snowblower can be your best wintertime tool–and quality of life investment. To save your shoulders and back the pain of manual snow removal this year, stop by Ralph Helm to talk to an expert about the best snowblower for you and your property.

Stock up on all your snow and ice removal supplies in one stop at Ralph Helm–preferably before more winter weather hits! And feel free to stop by our blog for more winter landscaping tips that will help keep your outdoors looking great during even the coldest months of the year.

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Snow Removal Strategies that will Save You Time and Energy

Snow Removal Strategies that will Save You Time and Energy

Winter is just around the corner, and with winter comes snow. Each year, local emergency rooms see an increase in patients who are injured as a result of shoveling snow. Shoveling and plowing are necessary tasks, but they are also a serious physical activity that requires planning and caution. The following tips will help you safely and efficiently clear snow from your property.

Shovel Snow Like a Pro

If you’re just working with a shovel, you’ll need to take some precautions. Start by stretching your muscles before you go outside. This will help warm you up (which will help once you step outside into the frigid air), and more importantly, reduce your risk of injuries.

Since shoveling can take some time, make sure you’ve dressed appropriately for the weather. It’s always a good idea to wear layers. Put on a thermal shirt, a pullover and a jacket, then wrap everything up with a nice scarf, hat and gloves. You might want to invest in a nice pair of weatherproof pants, as well, so that you don’t have to worry about flying snow getting you wet.

Lastly, keep in mind that continuous shoveling can be extremely hazardous, especially for the elderly or those who aren’t in good physical health. Take a break every 30-minutes or so. This is the perfect time to step inside and warm up a bit and rehydrate.

Consider Investing in a Snow Blower

The easiest way to remove wet, heavy snow is with a snow blower. If you have a large driveway or expect frequent and/or large snowfalls, it might be time to trade that shovel in for a snow blower. However, it is important to ensure the snow blower is in good condition before the season starts. Make sure all shields are properly in place and remember to keep your feet and hands away from all moving parts. Always point the chute away from your house and vehicles to prevent damage in case the snow blower picks up a rock or other debris.

Other Helpful Tips

Slippery driveways and walkways can be extremely dangerous, so after plowing and shoveling, throw some rock salt down. This will help to melt the ice that may have been hiding under the snow. Also, to prevent damage to your equipment as well as reduce the risk of an injury, make sure to remove all items from the areas where you will be removing snow. This could be everything from kids toys to larger debris that might have landed in your yard.

Contact Ralph Helm Inc. Lawn Equipment Center for more information on our snow blowers or to schedule a service appointment to ensure your snow blower is in top condition.

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3 Easy Ways to Stay Safe this Winter

Winter can be a beautiful time of the year, but it can also be one of the most hazardous. Not only are the roads more dangerous, but the temperatures can dip well below freezing, and snow and ice can leave you trapped at home! The following safety tips will help you prepare for the most common winter hazards.

Safety Starts at Home

Did you know one of the most common causes of death and serious injuries during the winter is carbon monoxide poisoning? Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can be deadly. It’s present in the fumes that your fireplace, gas range and furnace produce. If there’s a leak, the CO can build up in your home and poison anyone inside.

A CO detector is your best defense — it will alert your family if a CO leak is detected so that you can escape the home before an unsafe level is reached. If you do not have a carbon monoxide detector, now is the time to invest in one. Remember to replace the batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors at the beginning of each spring and fall.

Other winter safety tips for inside the home include:

  • Never use your oven, especially a gas range, to heat your home.
  • Do not leave your vehicle running inside an attached garage.
  • Invest in a dry-chemical fire extinguisher.
  • Winterizing your home will help keep you warmer and reduce the risk of cold weather injuries, such as hypothermia, especially if the heat goes out in the middle of the night.
  • Ensure all heat sources are properly cleaned and maintained.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended.

Dress for the Weather

Whether you are walking, playing in the snow or shoveling snow and ice, it is essential that you dress appropriately for the weather. Make sure you:

  • Dress in layers.
  • Wear footwear that is warm, waterproof and skid resistant.
  • Walk on the sidewalk, never in the street. and use caution when walking on sidewalks and walkways that have not been shoveled.

Staying warm is extremely important when the temperatures take a big dive. Make sure you know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia, and seek medical attention immediately if you think you might be experiencing any symptoms.

Be Cautious While on the Road

Before the first snow falls, it is important to make sure your vehicle is ready for the winter weather. Take it to a reliable mechanic to ensure that all fluids are full, the battery is in top condition and the tires are suitable for snow and ice. Always take your time and drive slowly, and make sure you have an emergency kit in the vehicle in case you get stuck. Your kit should contain:

  • Small shovel
  • Kitty litter
  • Ice scraper
  • Warm blankets
  • Flares
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Batteries
  • Cellphone charger
  • Jumper cables
  • Water
  • Nonperishable snacks
  • Duct tape
  • Tire gauge
  • Gloves
  • Multipurpose utility tool

Contact Ralph Helm Inc. Lawn Equipment Center to learn about the equipment we have available to make snow and ice removal easier and safer!

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