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When you're selling your home, landscaping is key. After all, well-maintained trees and shrubs can increase property value by up to 14%. But excellent landscaping can do far more than fetch a higher selling price for your property. In fact, it could very well save your life.

Although 83% of Americans think having a yard is important, having an attractive and well-maintained grassy area isn't essential for mere aesthetics alone. According to experts, the way in which you choose to landscape could have an impact on your property's overall safety rating. That's especially true in places like California, where wildfires have continued to spread, destroying thousands of homes and threatening residents' lives. In just the past year, the National Interagency Fire Center has recorded 46,474 fires in these areas, which have burned nearly 9 million acres of land. And while 65% of homeowners report repairing their roofs following weather damage, there often is no other choice but to completely rebuild after these fires have ravaged the area.

It's possible that something simple could help to reduce the risk of damage caused by fires, however. Creating what's known as a defensible space can keep a fire from spreading through specific landscaping (or "firescaping") techniques. Essentially, firescaping is all about reducing a property's vulnerability through certain types of landscape design. It involves surrounding the structural areas with components that are less likely to burn while prioritizing the modification of nearby vegetation, proper plant selection, and utilizing fire safety zones and similar concepts.

For example, homeowners living in fire prone areas should choose plants that are known to be less flammable (like broadleaf and deciduous plants or those that produce sap or less fragrance). The property should also be divided up into zones, wherein detailed instructions involving proper maintenance and planting techniques should be followed. Within 30 feet of a structure, for example, the plants used in this "zone one" should have fire retardant qualities that will not produce a flame if touched by a blaze. Generally, it's best to have more hardscaping in these areas and ensure that any trees located here have a higher moisture content. Irrigated lawns, ground covers, and low-growing annuals and perennials are typically allowed here, too. However, evergreen trees and shrubs should not be placed in proximity to a home due to their high risk of flammability. In "zone two," located further out, fire resistant plants can be used, which require little maintenance but that have a reduced risk of catching fire. Tree limbs here should be trimmed to be at least 10 feet off the ground. Once you get 50 feet away from your home, the main focus should be on native plant diversity and erosion control. And, of course, it's essential to remove dead growth and debris on a regular basis.

Whether or not you live in an area known for frequent wildfires, these landscaping tips can allow you to make smart property choices. Although 48% of homeowners planned to decorate their homes in 2018, there are plenty of those who focus on outdoor improvements throughout the year. And if your aim is to safeguard your home and your family, you may want to consider safety, rather than mere visual appeal, when designing your landscaping this year.

The idea of growing plants in environmentally controlled spaces has existed for centuries. Roman gardeners used artificial methods similar to the greenhouse system that is used across the world today. Large commercial organizations and individual residential farmers alike can benefit from a secure and efficient greenhouse system.

In 2017, approximately 8.4 million people were employed within the construction industry across the United States. This year, many of these workers are spending time building massive greenhouses in hopes of improving how crops are cultivated.

Currently, one of the largest greenhouse construction projects is taking place in Morehead, Kentucky. According to Forbes, the new AppHarvest greenhouse is said to be the world's ninth-largest building at more than 2.7 million square feet. Additionally, it will be outfitted with a $15 million hybrid LED lighting system, making it the world's largest LED installation for a single structure.

"To grow, plants require light, water, and nutrients," said Jonathan Webb, founder and CEO of AppHarvest. "The LEDs allow us to give more light to the plants throughout the day and night. Because of the increased amount of light, we can more densely plant, increasing the overall yield."

This new massive greenhouse will be able to produce nearly 50 million pounds of tomatoes each year. It's expected to open in the second half of 2020.

"The sophistication of the LEDs allow us to control numerous settings that create what’s essentially a time-based recipe for growth," Webb added. "We can use the LED lighting to influence everything from how compact the plants grow to how they flower."

Though you're probably not going to build a greenhouse anywhere close in size to the ninth-largest building across the globe, by working with the right builders and doing enough research, you can still construct a quality greenhouse for the whole family to enjoy.

Here are some important things to consider when constructing your own greenhouse:

  • Decide between freestanding or attached -- First, you need to decide whether your greenhouse will be attached to your home or an entirely new space. In order to save some cash, you might want to just attach a greenhouse to your existing home -- because it can cost a lot to heavily insulate a new structure.
  • Beware of pests -- The last thing you want is to construct a nice greenhouse and have to deal with all kinds of invasive pest damages. The U.S. pest control industry has more than 27,000 different organizations currently in operation -- and growing every year. Make sure you're consulting with experienced pest professionals in order to protect your greenhouse.
  • Foundation -- You and your construction team have a lot of materials and methods at your disposal. A popular option is to use concrete piers tied together with the framing of the older structure that once was there. Try not to overbuild your greenhouse, as well. Additionally, a report by the Building Industry Association of Philadelphia showed that going modular can reduce overall construction costs by as much as 20%.
  • Length and width proportions -- A greenhouse that is shorter than it is wide doesn't have to have extremely long windows during the day. Since the sun will spend a lot more time heating a greenhouse with a long east-west axis, you need to carefully consider the structure's length and width proportions.
  • Insulation -- Insulation is key to a productive greenhouse. Foam insulation or structural insulated panels (SIPs) work well but these will need to be sealed and kept dry since they aren't rated for typical greenhouse humidity levels.
  • Careful with material handling -- The two most common framing materials are wood and metal. It's important, however, to remain cautious when breaking down or handling these materials -- especially if they have been there for a while. Respirable crystalline silica are very small particles -- at least 100 times smaller than ordinary sand -- and are created when cutting, sawing, and crushing various types of materials.

If you have a green thumb and want to start producing more and more crops, it's time to consider getting a team of builders together and start constructing a quality greenhouse your whole family will love.

 

The quintessential American dream involves having a house with a beautiful lawn and having man's best friend by your side. Unfortunately, many homeowners find that these two elements don't always go well together. Pups like to dig in the dirt, roll around in the grass, and mark their territory -- all of which can wreak havoc on your lovely landscaping. But the truth is that you don't have to choose between the nice yard and the loyal dog. There's good news for the majority of American households that have at least one pet: your pup and your property can coexist in harmony, as long as you're strategic about the way you landscape. Here are some essential elements you'll want to include in your dog-friendly yard.

Soil is a mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organisms that, together, support life. Earth's body of soil (the pedosphere) functions as a medium for plant growth; as a means of water storage, supply, and purification; as a habitat for organisms; and as a modifier of the planet's atmosphere.

Magnolia co-founder and New York Times bestselling author Joanna Gaines will publish her first children's book, We Are the Gardeners, on March 26, 2019 with Tommy Nelson, the children's division of Thomas Nelson, the company announced today.

In We Are the Gardeners, Joanna and her kids chronicle the adventures of starting their own family garden. From their failed endeavors, obstacles to overcome (like bunnies that eat everything!), and all the knowledge they've gained along the way, the Gaines family shares how they learned to grow a happy, successful garden.

Though your riding mower should've been stored away for the winter long ago, it's always a good idea to think about whether or not your lawn equipment is truly protected during the winter and in times of non-use. Without proper storage, your valuable gear could acquire more wear and tear than necessary. With that in mind, here are just a few tips to keep in mind if you're planning ahead for next year's winter tractor and lawn equipment maintenance and storage.

Store Equipment Properly

First and foremost, it should come as no surprise that one of the best ways to ensure safe winter storage of lawn equipment is to read the owner's manual and follow the instructions carefully. They typically involve basic maintenance steps before storage like changing the oil and draining or topping off the gas. Many manufacturers recommend storing the equipment with a fresh tank of stabilized gas:

Add fuel stabilizer to an empty gas can. Then fill the gas can with fresh gas at the pump. That’ll thoroughly mix the stabilizer with the new fuel. Fill the mower tank with fresh gas and screw on the gas cap. Run the mower for 10 minutes to fill the carburetor bowl with stabilized gas. Top off the gas tank and store the mower," writes Elizabeth Flaherty on Family Handyman.

Again, it's always best to consult the manual to determine best storage practices for your particular model

Consider a Shipping Container Shed

Most shipping containers are eight feet wide, 9.5 feet tall, and either 20 or 40 feet long, making them the perfect receptacle to store all types of high-end lawn care equipment. Though you'll need to have enough yard space, shipping containers can be refurbished for countless uses, and they provide incredible protection from the elements. If a shipping container storage shed is out of your budget, make sure you store your mower and other lawn tools in a safe, dry place like a garage. Never leave them out exposed to the elements.

Consider Professional Dry Ice Blasting Services

Though used primarily for commercial uses, particularly in the manufacturing industry, dry ice blasting is incredibly useful for efficient cleaning. Dry ice blasting uses air compressed between 80 and 90 PSI to blast pellets of dry ice at a high velocity to clean a variety of surfaces. That being said, when performed properly and in a controlled environment, dry ice blasting can help to make your riding mower look and feel just like new. The tiny ice pellets are effective at penetrating the inner workings of the tractor, preventing you from having to take it apart and clean it manually. Of course, this isn't necessary for all mowers, and it should typically be performed by a professional. However, there are some cases where systems can be rented for personal use. If you're interested, check out some of the countless videos demonstrating the process on YouTube.

The average American spends, on average, four hours per week taking care of their lawn. That adds up to an average of 208 hours per year, or over eight days. Understanding these proper care tips can help you maximize the durability, performance, and lifespan of your riding mower and other lawn care equipment.

As organisms big and small begin their hibernation for the winter, your landscaping can start to look a bit dreary. You may be inclined to take this season off from tending to the look of your yard, but the winter months give many opportunities to amp up your landscaping prowess. Incorporate these elements into your yard's landscaping and your home will be the natural star of the neighborhood.

Insect Lore makes some fantastic kits for kids to learn about and grow their favorite insects, and now they're teaming up with the World of Eric Carle! For the first time ever, Insect Lore is combining their revolutionary habitat kits with the iconic art of World of Eric Carle for a kaleidoscope of unforgettable experiences through live lifecycle projects. We've done several Insect Lore kits here at Rock Father HQ, so I can tell you that we have some first-hand experience with these and I highly recommend them.

This Incredibles 2 special feature is presented in collaboration between Clorox and The Rock Father™ #CloroxIncrediblyClean

Last summer, I found myself in Anaheim, California during one of the incredible adventures that I sometimes get to have as part of my work. Since our first daughter was born in 2009, I have largely been an “at-home dad,” shifting many of my powers toward domestic duties while my wife maintains a career outside the home. There are occasions, however, where I spring into action for a special mission, usually hopping on a plane and leaving our Third Coast home en route to the East or West Coast (mostly West). For the D23 Expo in Anaheim, I was working with Disney and wound up there in the room when a select audience got to see the very first footage from Disney•Pixar’s The Incredibles 2. Later, I called my wife in Illinois and told her that what I saw was like watching our lives unfold on-screen… maybe sans the laser vision, but definitely the messes. Oh yes, those incredible messes!

When it comes to enjoying life outdoors, there's nothing that I enjoy more than gardening. If I had the time, I'd work on our garden and landscape all the time - and while that's not possible, I do try to spend as much time out there as I can, and I love to involve our girls - The Rock Daughters™ - wherever possible. Adding color to the landscape is a fun thing to do, especially when you work with perennials and bulbs that will return year after year. Not only will you have some cool colors that bloom throughout each year, but it can be a savings in cost and labor as well. For summer, lilies are some of the best bulbs around, and that's why the folks at Bulb.com have named the lily 2018's "Summer Bulb of the Year." The girls and I just planted 25 of them...

Just because your chickens live in a coop doesn’t mean they – and more likely – you, can’t appreciate a few touch ups. Backyard chicken keeping expert Lisa Steele has been sprucing up her coop creating Pinterest-worthy DIY touches you’ll want to copy for your own feathered friends’ humble adobe. Her books (available through Amazon - an affiliate of The Rock Father™ Magazine) and website have been a constant source of inspiration for flock masters everywhere, and this fall that library grows with the release of 101 Chicken Keeping Hacks, due out in September. Here's just a few ideas for a Pinterest-worthy coop...

Although it's still too cold for my liking here in Illinois, it's spring, and that means that it's time to start thinking about gardening... and our insect friends. There's a lot of helpful bugs that inhabit the landscape, and for years the folks at Insect Lore have been helping kids learn all about the life cycle of butterflies, praying mantises, ladybugs and ants. We've raised butterflies here at Rock Father HQ in the past, and right now I've got a praying mantis egg and some youthful ladybugs hanging out with me in my office. This Friday, April 6, 2018 - you're invited to join The Toy Insider, Insect Lore and The Rock Father™ for a fun-filled Twitter Party in which we'll be showing off all of the fun kits from Insect Lore while giving YOU a chance to win! You must RSVP to play along! Check out the video below to learn more...

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