Fast Home Maintenance Fixes for August

Some helpful seasonal tips for keeping tabs on all corners of your home from the folks at This Old House magazine.


Maintain Dryer Ducts

Lint that gets trapped in ducts poses a risk for fire. Remove each end of the duct and vacuum with a wet/dry vac.

Wash Window Coverings

Outdoor irritants like pollen may have built up on curtains after a season of open windows. Have all drapes washed or dry-cleaned.


Prevent Powdery Mildew

Thin out crowded branches to increase air circulation. If signs are already there, pick off affected parts and throw in the trash to avoid inviting spores back into your garden.

Plant Fall Crocuses

The saffron crocus (shown) will bloom in 6 to 8 weeks; the spice can be harvested for cooking by removing the bright red stigmas at the center.


Eliminate Pest Magnets

Move items touching your house’s siding, like firewood, tools, and toys, which create a haven for bugs and mice.

8 Plants That Repel Bugs and Mosquitoes

According to this article from our friends at, these 8 plants can beautifully help fight mosquitoes and bugs! Most on this list do really well here in Georgia, plus they’re pretty and some are even tasty! Check it out before you do your spring planting!

Citronella Grass

 Getty Images/iStockphoto

Citronella Grass

The citronella candles on your patio are made with the oil that comes from this plant. “Citronella is by far the most popular plant that repels mosquitoes,” says Carmen Johnston, a garden lifestyle expert. “It has a very pungent odor. I often place this in small eight-inch terra cotta pots and mix in with my centerpieces when entertaining outdoors. You can either use the clippings mixed in with arrangements or use the plant itself as the centerpiece.”


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This perennial is sometimes known as “nature’s pesticide,” because it can repel aphids, tomato hornworm, asparagus beetles, leafhoppers, and squash bugs. “Petunias are very easy to grow and you can plant them in the ground or keep them potted,” says Peyton Lambton, lifestyle expert and star of My New Old House. “They like sun, and I recommend buying transplants and placing them in light, well-drained soil in full sun after the last spring frost.”


 Juliette Wade/Getty Images


“Lavender has a fragrant smell that deters mosquitoes,” Johnston says. “I have this planted in clusters at the entryway of my garden, and I love those purple blooms. It likes to be hot and dry, so it’s perfect for summer.” You can also apply lavender oil to your skin as a natural repellent.

Germany, Rhineland-Palatinate, Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

Getty Images/Westend61


It repels whiteflies, squash bugs, aphids, several beetles, and cabbage loopers. This one will help other plants in your garden, too. “They produce an airborne chemical that repels insects, protecting not only themselves but other plants in the grouping,” says Chris Lambton, a professional landscaper and star of My New Old House. “Plant these in early spring in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. They should be regularly watered and deadheaded to promote blooming.”


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It not only adds flavor to your dishes, but it will also help keep the bugs away. “This one is another plant perfect for summer heat because it likes to be dry,” Johnston says. “It is one of my absolute favorite smells, but mosquitoes can’t stand it. You can plant it in containers, but it also works well as a hedge.” Johnston says the plant also adds texture to arrangements, so why not place it in an outdoor centerpiece to repel bugs and provide some eye candy?


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“It’s an annual herb and repels houseflies and mosquitoes,” says Chris Lambton. “Ensure that the plant gets six to eight hours of full sun daily, and its soil should be moist and well-drained. When you see blossoms start to form, pinch them off at the base to ensure the best-tasting leaves.” This versatile herb can also treat mosquito bites, Johnston adds. She recommends rolling several leaves between your hands to release its natural oil and apply to your bite to ease swelling.

Lemon grass in garden, Horizontal

Getty Images/iStockphoto


Lemongrass is closely related to citronella and repels mosquitoes, but unlike the latter, it’s edible and is commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking. “It can grow three- to five-feet tall and adds lots of extra height and texture to the garden, so it needs a larger container,” Johnston says. Keep this plant in a sunny spot.



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Refreshing mint can be used in dishes and cocktails, but it has an added bonus. “It’s a perennial that repels mosquitoes,” says Peyton Lambton. “Mint is easy to grow, but once established in a garden, it can be tricky to remove. Plant it in a pot instead and frequently pick its leaves to keep the plant at its best. You can grow the plant indoors all winter long—and it will help keep flies outside, too.”

20 Ways to Decorate Pumpkins


pumpkin-topiaryWe found some great ideas on decorating for Halloween on Pike Nurserie’s Blog. Check out more photos here.

1. Stack them high:  Make a pumpkin topiary.

2. Quick fix: Decorate a pumpkin in two minutes or less with a black stocking.

3. Drill down: Get out the handy power tools and drill patterns in the side of the pumpkin.

4. Try a little Bling: Create glitter covered pumpkins.

5. Painted Pumpkins: Paint a message like ‘boo’ on the side of a pumpkin.

6. Silly faces: Use a pumpkin kit to make silly faces.

7. Buttons: Glue buttons on a pumpkin.

8. Plant Pumpkins: Carve out your pumpkin and plant it!

9. Succulent succulents: Top your pumpkin with easy to care for succulents.

10. Flower power: Carve out your pumpkin. Line it with plastic and use it as a vase to hold fall cut flowers.

11. Entertaining: Hollow out a pumpkin and use it to hold ice and bottled water or dips for your fall parties.

12. Top Dressing: Add small pumpkins tucked into your container gardens.

13. Save the place: Use a small pumpkin at each place at the table with your guests name.

14. Pattern play: Paint stripes, dots, or chevron patterns.

15. Personalized Pumpkins: Add your monogram to pumpkins with buttons, push pins, or paint.

16. Go traditional: Carve out a spooky or silly face.

17. Mummified:  Wrap gauze around a pumpkin and add googly eyes to create a pumpkin mummy

18. Centerpiece / Tablescape: Mix pumpkins, gourds and fall leaves for a festive centerpiece.

19. House numbers: Paint your house numbers on a pumpkin.

20. Decoupage. Use decoupage glue to adhere fall foliage or mosses to a pumpkin.

How to Prep Your Lawn for Winter



While the days are still hot and muggy, it’s hard to think about winter, but with a little prep work now, your lawn will be ready for winter. The end of summer is the perfect time to lay the groundwork for a lush green lawn in the spring. We found these 6 easy tips from This Old House.

  1. Mow Low
    Cut the grass down to 1 to 1½ inches, making it easier to aerate and to judge how much compost to add. If your grass is more than 3 inches tall, take it down incrementally over a few mowings—no more than a third of the grass blade at a time—to avoid stressing the plants.
  2. Aerate
    On a day when the soil is moist, not soggy—the core aerator’s hollow tines can’t easily penetrate hard, dry ground—take a couple of passes around the lawn’s perimeter. This will provide a buffer zone for turning this heavy machine around as you run it back and forth over the rest of the lawn.
  3. Top-Dress
    Where grass is sparse, prepare for seeding by spreading a half-inch layer of aged compost. I hold a snow-shovelful in the crook of my arm, fling it off with my free hand, as shown, then work it in with a leaf rake. Be sure your compost is cured: dry, crumbly, and cool to the touch. If it’s hot and smells, it’s more likely to harbor pathogens and burn your lawn.
  4. Fertilize
    Distribute fertilizer and pelletized lime (if needed) using a rotary spreader. I use a high-phosphorus fertilizer to stimulate root growth; but you should let the soil test determine the best mix for your conditions. To keep the spreader from dumping too much fertilizer in one spot, open or close the hopper only when the spreader is in motion.
  5. Overseed
    Fill the spreader with seed, set its control to about two-thirds of the bag’s recommendation, to account for overlapping passes, and distribute the seed over the compost. As when fertilizing, keep the spreader in motion when opening or closing the hopper. For large areas, you can save time by renting a power overseeder, which slices the turf and drops in the seeds. It eliminates the need to rake in Step 6.
  6. Rake and Water
    Mix the seeds into the compost with a leaf rake held tines up, as shown. Water lightly—5 minutes at a time, two to three times a day—until the seeds sprout. Then water once a day for 15 to 30 minutes. Mow the lawn again when the existing grass reaches 3 inches; bag the clippings. After leaves have fallen, cut the grass back to 1½ inches for its long winter’s nap.

Find out more at

Prep Your Yard for Fall

From our friends at This Old House, here are some helpful tips to prepare your lawn for fall and the changing weather.


Rent a core aerator from the home center (about $90 per day) to remove plugs of soil from the lawn; run it over damaged sections to improve drainage and get oxygen and nutrients down to the roots. Rake a thin layer of compost into holes. Then sow seed a little heavier than usual and gently mix into the compost with the back of a rake. Water as directed on the seed bag.

Watch Roger Cook aerate a lawn


Uprooting plants and pulling them apart may sound cruel, but it actually rejuvenates them. Water well a day or two before digging all the way around a perennial, 6 inches from its base. After prying out the root ball, tease roots apart, leaving groupings of three to five shoots. Share extra bounty with friends.

Learn how to divide overgrown perennials


Be sure to stay ahead of the birds. Snip off seed heads and let them dry for about a month on paper-lined sheet pans. Separate out the dried seeds and slide them into marked envelopes or jars. Now you’ve got a head start come spring.

Read more on collecting and saving seeds

Fall Lawn and Garden Care














In the Garden

  • Fall is for Planting. Enjoy fall shrubs with blooms and berries such as Encore Azaleas, Camellias, Witch Hazel, Cotoneaster, Dogwoods, Beautyberry, Holly, Honeysuckle and Pyracantha.
  • Divide or transplant spring-blooming perennials.
  • More Color Please. Bring back the color in your garden by replanting a fall crop of annual flowers – Geraniums, Petunias or Zinnias in the full sun. Once temperatures really cool down, replace your warm season annuals with Pansies and Violas.
  • Plant perennials such as Asters, Joe Pye Weed, Chrysanthemum, Japanese Anemone and Ornamental Grasses for fall color.
  • Play with Ornamental Grasses.These versatile plants provide four seasons of interest and are often at their best during the fall when their “plumes” appear. They are durable, low maintenance plants and are rarely affected by insects or diseases. Looks aren’t everything. Not only do they add distinction to the landscape, they also add aspects of motion and sound. The gentle waving motion of the grasses, and the accompanying sounds create a peaceful atmosphere.
  • Garden for Food. Cool-season vegetable seeds and seedlings can be planted. Try cabbage, lettuce, beets, turnips, spinach, radishes, collards and broccoli; be sure to water thoroughly after planting.
In the Home
  • Watch the Water. As the humidity decreases you may need to adjust your watering frequency. If the plants are wilting increase the watering. If you see yellow spots on the tips of the foliage reduce watering.

For the Lawn

  • Keep it Going: Continue to mow, edge and water as needed. The best time to mow is in the evening when the grass is dry and temperatures have cooled.
  • To Fertilize or Not Fertilize. Fescue should be fertilized towards the middle of September with Atlanta Turf Special 31-3-10 and Bermuda will benefit from a “winterizer” fertilizer applied six weeks before you estimate the first frost. Do Not fertilize Zoysia, Centipede or St. Augustine grasses.
  • Plant Fescue seed. Use 6 pounds of seed per 1000 square feet and mulch with wheat straw to hold soil moisture and protect the seed from birds.
  • Prevent Weeds: The middle of September is the time to apply a pre-emergent like Pike Crabgrass Preventer to Bermuda, Centipede and Zoysia lawns to prevent winter lawn weeds.

For the Birds

  • Squirrel Problems? Keep squirrels away with special squirrel proof feeders like the Droll Yankees that won’t support the weight of squirrels. Unlike birds, squirrels have sensitive taste buds and won’t eat anything spicy – feed your birds with spicy bird food.

Bird-Friendly Gardens = A Win-Win for All in the South

0905_GN_aColorful birds can be a welcoming sight to dull winter landscapes. Now is the time to start planning and planting to attract more birds this winter. Better Homes and Gardens magazine offers some great tips on attracting birds to your lawn this winter.

Landscaping can do a lot to welcome birds into your yard. Welcome birds to your garden with these plants native to the Southeast.

Birds love ornamental grasses and berries. Add ornamental grasses to your garden for multiseason color, texture, and food sources for a host of birds. Here’s some grasses birds love. Invite flocks to your backyard by planting fruit-bearing trees, shrubs, and groundcovers in your landscape. These berry producing plants do double duty– they attract and feed birds in the winter but they also add a nice sparkle and burst of color to your landscape.

Use these 10 ideas to help you attract songbirds to the garden. Knowing the secrets to bird hosting can help you convince the birds to take up residence. Once they stop by for a visit, here’s six quick and easy ways to create a welcoming space for birds to inhabit.


Hooda and Kathy Lee Want to Help You With Curb Appeal


Creating curb appeal

You only have one chance to make a first impression and the same can be said for your home. Creating curb appeal is key for homeowners, buyers and sellers alike, local experts agree. If the house doesn’t pop from the road, then you can be out of luck. Below are some key tips to keep in mind. To read more tips, check out the full article here.

Landscaping is Key. Proper landscaping can add a finished touch to a new home.

Color Goes a Long Way. The color of the front door and gutters can make a big impact with just a little bit of work and effort. Sometimes a fresh coat of paint or a new color on the front door can improve things tremendously.

The Difference is in the Details. Just like decorating your living room, you may want to add a few bright decorative touches as focal points- like a birdbath, bird house, a stick-in-the-ground trellis, or a bench. Adding a new mailbox or replacing old light fixtures are another easy upgrade.

Don’t Forget Decks and Driveways. Through the years, mold and mildew can collect on surfaces outside the home. Getting these cleaned is a big boost to your home’s appearance.

Still need some specific help with boosting your home’s curb appeal? Upload your photos to the Kathy Lee and Hooda show on NBC’s Today Show by posting on their Facebook wall or tweeting them to @klgandhoda and real estate expert Barbara Corcoran will give you some tips to improve your home’s curb appeal.


20 Ways to Upgrade Your Deck

101503798.jpg.rendition.largestJust because summer is drawing to a close, doesn’t mean it’s time to abandon your deck or patio. Fall can be the perfect time to do a little outdoor updating.

From refreshing to refinishing, these fab deck ideas show how to transform a dull deck into a sizzling space to gather, grill, and garden. Be inspired to dig into these smart deck updates and rethink your space this fall with Better Homes and Gardens Magazine’s 20 easy deck updates.

Caring for Your Lawn in Rainy Weather

256916199_5ad5df3fca_zPike Nurseries is always a helpful source of lawn and garden information. With the rainy summer we’ve had, what we thought we knew about gardening in the South has changed. We found this blog entry from Pike’s pretty helpful:

For so many years here in the southeast we have had a rain deficit. As gardeners, we’ve learned a lot about drought tolerant plants and methods for successful gardening using less water and using reclaimed water.

This year has painted a very different story for us. We’ve had an abundance of rain. Looking around this summer we see lots of green and lush foliage. We’ve observed vegetable leaves that appear larger than normal. Container gardens have thrived without needing to be watered daily.

The rain has been helpful in so many ways. But with this much rain there are some things that you need to be watchful for.

Rain leaches nutrients from the soil. If you notice bright yellow leaves appearing suddenly, or little to no growth on plants in the active growing phase, your plants might be deficient in Nitrogen. Flowering plants with no flowers could need more Phosphorous. If you notice slow growth and weak stems your plant might be lacking Potassium.

In each of these cases your plants will benefit from fertilizer. On a box of fertilizer you’ll notice 3 numbers. The first number represents Nitrogen, the second Phosphorous and the third Potassium. The number represents the percentage of each nutrient in the package. Choose a fertilizer that will best address the symptoms your plant is showing. For example, if you’re plant is not flowering well apply a fertilizer with the highest number in the ratio being the second number. Superbloom 12-55-6 is an example of this type of fertilizer.

Drainage can also be a problem with so much water. If you have a container garden with plants that have yellowing leaves, check the bottom and be sure that the drainage hole is not blocked. Raise the container with pot feet to allow for better drainage.  In the garden if you have drainage problems, you might want to relocate plants, choose plants that are more tolerant of wet feet (wet roots), or dig the plants and plant them higher. Planting them higher on a berm will allow for better drainage.

Rain and the hot weather is the perfect climate for troublesome fungus and disease issues. If you see black spots on leaves, or gray or white mold you’ll need to apply a fungicide. Bonide’s Infuse will cure and prevent fungus on flowers, roses, trees, shrubs and your lawn.

Watch your tomatoes, the excess rain can cause them to split. To avoid this, harvest your tomatoes a day or two earlier than you normally would and let them ripen on your kitchen counter.

Finally, mulch your garden to keep weeds down (which also love the rain) and to help prevent erosion. Remember pine straw stays in place best on sloped areas.

Our gardens (and water bills) have benefited from all the rain this year and overall maintaining our plantings has been much easier. Keep in mind the few things that might be different this year because of the rain and you can keep your garden healthy and happy.

And, if you’re not sure what is wrong with your plant, cut a couple of samples and bring them in to us. We are here to help you diagnose your problems and give you a solution.