I love the stuff. But over the years, I’ve learned what it is good for and what it’s not. Here’s the rundown.
What It’s Good For
Low Security Fencing
Want to keep rabbits, dogs, and chickens out of your garden? Use 2 x 4 welded wire.
I say low security because this is for situations where an animal will encounter the fence and not try to actively dismantle, destroy, or jump over it. They’ll hit the barrier and walk away.
That is not true of all animals (see below).
I LOVE 2 x 4 for trellises of all kinds. I’ve used it for decorative vine-covered dividers and for cucumbers to climb on. Nothing like a roll of 2 x 4 for a trellis.
Tip: If you’re making a trellis in an outdoor living space like a courtyard, I recommend the vinyl-coated type. It’s fancier.
Welded wire also makes nifty protection to keep tender plants safe from vicious weed trimmers (there is actually a little blueberry bush growing in there).
What Welded Wire is Not Good For
High Security Fencing
Welded wire fencing really has only one weakness. If you need to keep the really nasty animals out – raccoons primarily – do not use welded wire.
This is especially true of chicken runs. The welded wire will work at first, but over time (usually a couple years) the welds will break and that will let the bad guys in. It takes only one broken weld for a raccoon to slither in and kill your chickens.
So what fencing should you use for a secure chicken coop? Chain link and nothing else. It’s so important I did a whole video on it.
2″x 4″ welded wire fencing is great stuff. You should have a roll of it around your house at all times. Just don’t use it to protect animals from wily night crawlers like raccoons.
If you are reading this, you are wondering why I say drought is good for grass. That’s because you’ve been taught that your lawn will die if it is not watered like the end of the world.
You have been misled.
Your grass needs drought. Yes it does.
Here are some benefits of letting your yard dry out regularly and some guidelines to follow so you don’t go too far.
Plants are opportunists. They take food and water where they can get it and won’t expend extra energy if they don’t have to.
If you water your grass too often (like every day here in the South), it will never dig roots into the soil to find water. It will lay its roots on top of the soil because it knows more water is coming the next day.
Problem is, this makes weak grass. Pretty soon, usually in the heat of summer, you won’t be able to water it enough because the roots do not have the protection the cooler soil provides a few inches down.
The first sign of stress and your grass will croak.
Letting your grass dry out some (see guidelines below) between waterings trains it to dig deep roots. This means your grass will be more resilient and hold on to water longer, which means it needs even less water.
A constantly wet yard is asking for fungus problems. Dry spells defend against fungus while making your grass stronger. Win-win.
It goes like this: You over water your grass. It gets weak so you fertilize more ($). You then “water it in,” i.e. water too much and wash the fertilizer down the street (which causes eutrophication, gross).
Oh no, the grass looks weak again. Fertilize more. Water more. And so on.
You are unintentionally wasting money, making weak grass, and mucking up the waterways.
Now try this: Provide periodic drought. Your grass gets stronger, which means less need for fertilizer and water. More money in your wallet and less down the drain, literally.
Grass is a plant like any other. It did not evolve to be watered every day. Over watering is, ironically, unnatural.
I don’t want your grass to die. Everything in moderation. There are some rules of thumb when it comes to providing drought.
**Notice, they didn’t say to water when one square foot of your lawn shows these symptoms. You should only water when 30 to 50 percent of your lawn shows at least one symptom.
It will take self control to watch your lawn wither a little, but trust the experts.
How Much to Water
Conventional wisdom says to water a little each day for healthy grass. Like so often with conventional wisdom, the opposite is true.
Rule of thumb: Water less often but more when you do.
How much should you water? Again, from the experts at UF:
“When you do water, apply 1/2–3/4 inches. For sandier soils, which do not hold water well, the 3/4-inch rate may be necessary. For heavier clay soils in North Florida and the panhandle, the 1/2-inch rate may be sufficient. The idea is to get water to your grass’s roots without drowning your grass or creating run-off (excess water that your grass cannot absorb).”
Birds are like people – if you meet their needs, they like you and want to hang out.
Provide these three bird-friendly elements in your yard and prepare for the morning serenades.
There are three easy, cheap kinds of food that will attract songbirds.
Obvious, I know, but you have to provide seed strategically. Birds are territorial and some species are actually enemies.
To keep them all happy and singing in your yard, give them multiple feeders (two or three will do) in different parts of your property. Then the birds that don’t get along can eat and have their space.
Don’t over think the seed. Get the cheapest stuff you can find. The birds won’t care.
Birds love bird seed. Get the cheapest stuff you can find.
Suet (bird seed in congealed beef fat) is disgusting but song birds dig it.
Bonus: Peanut Butter
If you can’t get over the idea of hanging hunks of beef tallow around your yard, good old peanut butter will do the trick. We like the Jif all-natural variety.
Proper habitat is the single best, and easiest, way to attract songbirds. Strangely, the modern yard is engineered to repel them.
That’s because we are obsessed with finely manicured lawns with huge swaths of sterile grass and a strict hedge along the front of the house.
While this may satisfy your yearning for a Downton Abbey-esque severe British garden, birds hate it.
Many, if not most, birds do not nest in trees. They live in bushes and thickets, tangles of mix-mashed undergrowth where they can hide from larger predators like hawks, ospreys, and feral cats. You have to give this to them.
Most birds want a shaggy bush or thicket to live and nest in. Give them habitat and they will come.
The great news is that this means less yard work for you, not more. That’s right, I am giving you permission to let a part of your yard go wild for the birds. Just let it go.
Seriously, do nothing. Let whatever grows there grow there and in a few years you will have habitat and birds, I promise.
School is only boring if you make it that way. There are practical life lessons all around your home that won’t feel like “school” at all. Here are a few projects to do with your kids that are fun and teach important subjects.
1. Science – Start a Garden
Doesn’t have to be big, and it doesn’t even have to be outside. Gardening is full of science lessons, including chemistry, biology, measurements, and more. And you can eat the results!
Walking through the chicken life cycle, including how an egg gestates and hatches, is one of the most fascinating and educational experiences in life. Ideally, I would recommend you buy an incubator and hatch some eggs yourself.
Don’t be scared! You can get everything online and you don’t have to keep the chicks once they hatch. Trust me, you have someone like me near you who loves chickens and will take them off your hands. Just put out a Facebook post and watch the chicken people emerge.
Scholastic has some cool chicken-hatching lesson plans to get you started.
This is an oldy-but-goodie. Building even the simplest bird house requires measuring, calculating material, volume, estimation, even calculating the size of the hole in the front. Math, math, math that is fun, fun, fun.
And there is nothing more fulfilling for anyone than building something with your own hands. It’s what HomeDabbler is dedicated to.
Landscape timbers are wooden posts, usually eight feet long with a 3-inch by 4-inch profile and rounded edges. They are indeed pretty and versatile. You can stack them horizontally or cut them into short sections and place them vertically in a row.
You’ve likely seen them used for bed borders and raised garden beds. And if you’ve tried them yourself, you know that, within a couple years, they are rotting.
Which is why I hate them. Landscape timbers are attractive and so useful, but they don’t last (NEVER put them in the ground as a post). I don’t know why, but the pressure treating they undergo is simply not enough. For all the work it takes to construct a bed or border, you should get more than two seasons out of them.
How cute! Don’t be fooled.
A Better Option
A standard 4 x 4 ground-contact post will serve you much better, and longer. They don’t have quite the same profile as landscape timbers (and no cute rounded corners). And they are more expensive. But for my money and time, they are the best way to go.
These posts can do everything landscape timbers can but will last for years and years and years.
Another Better Option (For Vertical Applications Only)
One of my favorite landscape materials is the 3 x 3 round fence post. They have a rustic, farm-y feel and are made to last. You cannot stack them horizontally, but they look great for those borders made of short vertical sections butted against each other.
Trust Me On This One
I know you see landscape timbers everywhere, but don’t use them. They are way cheaper than other similar posts, but that ought to tell you something. Save yourself hard labor in the sun and leave them on the shelf.
Tomatoes are unusual garden plants in many ways, including how they need to be planted.
If you buy tomato plants from a nursery to plant in your garden, there is a simple technique for planting them that will make them strong, keep them from flopping over so badly, and set them up for season-long success.
There is a lot of fascination about honey bees, for obvious reasons. Colony Collapse Disorder is now a household term and bees have become a poster child for the fragility of our ecosystem, food supply, and economy.
There are real issues around our favorite fuzzy flying friends, but there are also some misconceptions that I think increase our anxiety about honey bees unnecessarily.
I attended a lecture on back by the great University of Florida entomologist and beekeeper Dr. Jamie Ellis that schooled me on a few things I didn’t know about honey bees.
Like cows, chickens, dogs, and cats, honey bees have been domesticated by humans to exhibit certain traits, like docility and strong queens. In other words, we’ve engineered them just as much as we have our purse dogs.
A “wild” hive in America is simply an escaped hive from someone’s apiary.
3. Even if we lost honey bees (heavens forbid), humans would survive.
Check out this cool map from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It shows all the American crops that honey bees pollinate.
Check that pattern. All of the fruits and veggies that we love are grown largely on the perimeter of the country. These are the crops that would be most affected should we lose the bees altogether (and we won’t).
But why don’t bees pollinate crops in the middle of the country?
Because that is where the grains are grown, wheat especially. And grains are wind pollinated. They don’t require bugs, including honey bees, to reproduce.
Wheat = bread = what humans lived on for thousands of years before we developed cantaloupes.
If we lost all pollinators (honey bees aren’t the only ones by far), we would survive, because we could make bread. Our variety of flavorful food would suck and our agriculture economy would be a shambles, but we wouldn’t go extinct.
I must have cut a million miles of grass in my years of business.
Over those years, I consistently saw four things that kept homeowners from getting pro-level results. They are all simple, easy to implement, and will actually save you work and money.
1. Edge your grass with an edger.
Nothing makes a yard look more polished than crisp, clean lines along the sidewalks and driveway. That can only be done by an edging tool. NOT A WEED EATER TURNED ON ITS SIDE. That is actually harder than using an edger.
You are probably cutting your grass too short. Yes you are. You think you are helping but you aren’t. Cutting your grass too short stresses it out (which is why it looks dull right after you mow). The stress makes it hungrier, thirstier, and weaker.
You’re also probably watering your grass too much and too often. This hurts your lawn because 1) you wash away most of the fertilizer you just put on the grass, which means you have to fertilize more often ($$), and 2) you make your grass more susceptible to weak roots, bugs, and fungus.
When you throw away grass clippings, you throw away free fertilizer. So you have to fertilize more. So you throw away money.
Some folks think clippings accumulate to create “thatch” in the grass that chokes it out. Not so. If you leave clippings on your lawn, they quickly decompose and release valuable nitrogen for the grass to use again. It’s easy recycling.
“But I don’t want to see the clippings on my lawn like baled hay,” you say. Agreed, but if you cut your grass at the proper height (see tip 2), and use a good mulching blade, you should see no clippings on your lawn after a mow.
Less work, happier lawn.
The beautiful thing about these tips is that they mean less work and more money for you, with better results.