Cookie Cutter Birdseed Ornaments

Cookie Cutter Birdseed Ornaments

Remember our feathered friends during the winter months – great project to share with your kids!

When the chill of winter sets in on your yard, you may begin to worry about the birds struggling to survive the cold. 

It’s important to make your yard an inviting place for birds in the spring, summer, and during the winter months.

Cookie Cutter Birdseed Ornaments

Materials for Homemade Birdseed Ornaments;

Cold water

Boiling water

2 packets of gelatin

Corn syrup

Birdseed (about 2 1/2 cups)

Cookie Cutters (in any shape you’d like)

Straws cut in 2” pieces

Parchment paper

Twine or other kind of string

 

Directions for Homemade Birdseed Ornaments

  1. Mix 2 packets of gelatin with 1/2 cup cold water until dissolved.
  2. Add a 1/2 cup of boiling water to the bowl, stir slowly until dissolved.
  3. Next, add 2 tablespoons of corn syrup. Stir until dissolved. (Quick tip, spray the tablespoon with a little non-stick spray and the corn syrup will slide right off!)
  4. Mix in the bird seed. Keep mixing until the gelatin/ corn syrup mixture evenly coats each seed. Let this rest for a couple minutes if the mixture seems watery.
  5. Spoon the seed mixture into the cookie cutters. Fill the cookie cutters about half way and use a small piece of parchment paper to press the seeds firmly into the mold. Then fill the cookie cutter to the top and press again.
  6. Press the straw into the birdseed filled ornament, making a hole. Be sure to leave plenty of room between the straw and the edge. Press around the straw to ensure the seeds will hold shape around the hole. (This is where you’ll eventually thread your twine through the ornament.)
  7. Place the cookie cutters in the refrigerator to set overnight.
  8. Once set, remove the cookie cutters by gently pushing at the edges until they fall off, leaving just the birdseed ornament.

The bird feeder is ready to hang outside!  Make sure you hang it near other branches so the birds have a place to rest while eating. Enjoy watching your backyard birds come visit!

  1. Push the straws out & thread the twine through the hole.

 

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Chrysanthemums 101

Chrysanthemums 101

Mums can give you color till the cold comes. 

Chrysanthemums nicknamed “mums,” are one of fall’s quintessential flowers. They’re usually the last plant to bloom before frost, ushering your garden into the big sleep of winter with a last bang of color.
There are many species of mums, hundreds of varieties, and thousands of hybrids, with blooms that can be as frilly as a cheerleading pompom or as dainty as a daisy. Mums come in a rich range of colors including white, yellow, orange, lavender, purple, red and bicolor. They’re easy-to-grow and can be used in beds, borders, and containers. They attract butterflies in the fall and make great cut flowers, lasting up to two weeks in a bouquet.

Chrysanthemums are an ancient flower, cultivated in China as far back as the 15th century. Flowers can be as small as a quarter or big as a dinner plate. They bloom in various shapes, according to variety. Mums can be flat flowers with a single or double layer of petals that look like daisies, or a mounded flower with long petals shaped like tubes or quills.
Growing Mums.  Chrysanthemums grow 1′ to 3′ tall and get 1′ to 2′ wide, depending on the type.

When and Where to Plant Mums
If you’re using a mum as a perennial, plant in early spring, or in the fall at least six weeks before the first killing frost. If you’re using chrysanthemums for a pop of fall color to boost your late season garden, plant them when they’re blooming in later summer or early fall and treat them as annuals.

Mums grow best in full sun. Give them too little sunlight, and you’ll get a weak plant that produces few flowers.
Mums are happiest in rich, well-drained soil. Add compost or other organic material to your soil when you plant to give your mum the best shot at being a strong, healthy plant.

Garden Design Suggestions

  • Mums are ideal for containers because of their shallow root systems.
  • Use those pots of blooming mums sold in the fall as annuals to replace summer annuals that are past their prime. Tuck the mums in beds, borders, or planters to keep the color coming until frost.
  • Plant them in beds or borders in the early spring or fall as perennials. They come back each fall with more flowers.
  • Plant chrysanthemums in swaths or clumps of the same color and flower type. Mass plantings are pleasing to the eye.
  • Pair them with other late-season bloomers like sedum, goldenrod, Russian sage and asters.
  • Use them in the middle of sunny borders, cutting gardens and butterfly gardens.
  • Mums contain substances that can be toxic to cats, dogs, and horses, so keep that in mind if you have pets that might munch on them.

 

 

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Trends for Outdoor Spaces

Trends for Outdoor Spaces

The outdoor season is never long enough, is it? Homeowners are always looking for ways to create outside spaces that are unique, comfortable and help them make the most of their sunny days and warm evenings. From outdoor kitchens and living rooms to retro-shape pavers making a comeback, to new environmentally conscious choices, check out trends that are making an impression outdoors.

Decked-out living spaces – Homeowners are extending the use of their outdoor space by moving indoor rooms outside. Al fresco kitchens are extensively equipped with appliances, preparation counters, pizza ovens and grill islands. The outdoor living room is complete with fireplace, cozy seating, area rug and big screen TV. A creative use of pavers such as different styles and colors, contrasting borders, and vertical elements like steps, low walls and pillars will help to define your inviting gathering spaces.

Mix and match – Play with an array of pavers in different shapes, textures, sizes and colors to add unique style and character to your outdoor patio. Mix and match them to create different patterns or a pixelated effect that are not only visually interesting, but also hide stains and marks.

Put a hex on it – Making a comeback everywhere in bathroom and kitchen backsplashes and in wallpaper patterns is the hexagon shape. Now the six-sided paver shape such as Granito (Unilock) can be found in outdoor patios and walkways. For an atypical look, honor the geometric pattern by leaving the pavers whole on the edges of your project.

Think permeable – Permeable pavers (Unilock) help to reduce the amount of water that flows into public drains, which can get overstressed in a major storm event. Water flows through the paver joints into a gravel base below where it is naturally absorbed back into the ecosystem. As more municipalities are limiting the amount of impervious surface space you are allowed to have on your property, permeable pavers make sense for a large patio, pool deck or driveway.

Take a seat on a wall – Low seat walls are a simple, stunning way to provide additional seating around a fire pit, water feature, small-space patio, flower bed or raised garden to make tending the garden easier and more comfortable. Build your own with a versatile system like the U-Cara Multi-Face Wall System (Unilock) for a seat wall that is not only functional, but also adds visual interest to your outdoor project.

What inspirational trends in pavers have you noticed? We can help you make it happen!  Complete the below form and request more information or give us a call at 815-786-9418.

 

Information provided by Unilock

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Adding a Walkway to your home

Adding a Walkway to your home

With the right materials, a walkway can completely transform a home’s curb appeal. Today’s walkways can feel both historic and modern.

If you own a home and have a yard, your outdoor space probably includes some sort of path — from front sidewalk to front door, around the side of the house, or out to the backyard. You can rely on a basic from-here-to-there walkway, or you can upgrade yours with ideas that are beautiful and practical.

Safety
Safety is often the first consideration for any walkway material, especially when your new walkway will need to withstand an abundance of rain, snow, and ice.

Style
Another characteristic to look for is a style that complements your home. Each home is unique and deserves a walkway that enhances its look.

Durability
Over the long run, concrete pavers significantly outlast poured concrete or asphalt. The challenge with poured concrete or asphalt is that they’re solid surfaces, which are very heavy. They must be supported by an adequate base that won’t shift under load, or because of the natural movement of soil. Any shifting will cause cracking or heaving, which means the entire walkway will have to be reinstalled. Paver walkways do allow for slight movement, which prevents cracking or heaving, and should a paver be damaged, you can just have that one paver replaced.

Whether you’re looking for a new design for your front entry, a solution for your side yard or you’re wanting to add walkway to enhance your landscape, give our designer a call to provide you options by calling Aztech Landscaping at 815-786-7647 or complete the below request for a free consultation.

 

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Fun Facts About Pumpkins

Fun Facts About Pumpkins

Nothing says autumn more than a beautiful, orange pumpkin, but this most beloved symbol of fall is hiding some fun little secrets. Think you know everything there is to know about these great big gourds? We wanted to SHARE some fun facts about pumpkins!

Pumpkins are fruits, not vegetables

Fruits are considered to be the part of the plant that has seeds on the inside. By this definition, a pumpkin is definitely a fruit. They’re a member of the gourd family, which includes other fruits like watermelon and winter squash.

Pumpkin pie wasn’t served at the pilgrims’ Thanksgiving

Despite our modern-day obsession with pumpkin pie this time of year, it was nowhere to be found at the original Thanksgiving feast of 1621. Pilgrims wouldn’t have had butter or flour for making pie crust, let alone an oven for baking. Some historians speculate that the Pilgrims may have hollowed out pumpkins to fill with milk, spices, and honey for a custard-like dessert, but even this has never been proved.

The first jack-o’-lanterns

Early jack-o’-lanterns were made by carving turnips or potatoes — not pumpkins. The Irish and Scottish used them as part of their pagan Celtic celebrations, while the English did the same thing, just with beets instead. In fact, the tradition of the jack-o’-lantern stems from the Irish legend of a man named Stingy Jack who was known as somewhat of an unpleasant trickster. Immigrants brought their carving traditions to America but found that pumpkins were a much easier alternative.

Pumpkins grow (almost) everywhere

Pumpkins are grown on every continent except Antarctica. They even grow in Alaska.

More than 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin are produced in the U.S.

And 80 percent of this crop are picked within one single month of the year — October. The top-producing pumpkin states are Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California. In fact, Morton, Ill., is the self-proclaimed “pumpkin capital” of the world because it’s home to the Libby’s corporation.

Pumpkin seeds as snacks
The average-size pumpkin contains about 1 cup of seeds.

To roast seeds: Separate seeds from the stringy pulp and run them under cold water (a colander works well here). Then carefully blot dry. Preheat oven to 250ºF. Make a seasoning mix with butter or oil and your favorite dry seasonings. Try Cajun, taco, simple salt and pepper or whatever you’re feeling. Bake for about 45 minutes, then increase the temperature to 325ºF and bake for another 20 minutes or longer — until seeds are crispy. Stir a few times during baking.

SAVE THOSE SEEDS:

How do you store pumpkin seeds for next season?
Once your seeds are thoroughly dry, place them in an envelope or brown paper bag. Label it with the date and details about the pumpkin. Store your seed envelope in a cool, dry place until planting time. Some people keep them in the refrigerator if they don’t have another suitable place.
Your jack-o’-lantern won’t make a good pie
Those oversized pumpkins you pick up at the roadside stand are bred for size, not flavor. Farmers know that most people buy pumpkins that they can carve, so they don’t worry about their tastiness. If you plan on using fresh pumpkin to cook, pick up a Cinderella, Pink Banana Squash or Sugar Pie pumpkin variety. A 5-pound pumpkin should yield two pies.

World’s largest pumpkin pie

The largest pumpkin pie ever made was 20 feet in diameter and weighed 3,699 pounds. It was made in September 2010 by the New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers (USA) at the New Bremen Pumpkinfest in New Bremen, Ohio.

National Pumpkin Day is celebrated every Oct. 26

National Pumpkin Day is an unofficial holiday that is celebrated annually on Oct. 26. The holiday serves as a day to give thanks for the squash that have been such an integral part of North American heritage. It’s also a convenient day to carve a pumpkin since most pumpkins will hold up a few days before Halloween on Oct. 31.

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Learn About Tulips

Learn About Tulips

The perfect time to plant Tulips has arrived!

The reasoning behind planting tulips in the late fall (October- November) is that tulips require 12-14 weeks of temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in order to bloom in the spring. It is also helpful because the low temperatures suppress the fungal growth in the bulbs. Planting later in the season like November helps avoid the peak of wildlife animals that hoard food for the winter.

Plant in the Fall for Spring Bloom

Tulip bulbs are planted in the autumn before the ground freezes. By planting varieties with different bloom times, you can have tulips blooming from early to late spring. Some types are good for forcing into bloom indoors and most are excellent for cut flowers, too.

Tulip flowers are usually cup-shaped with three petals and three sepals. There’s a tulip for every setting, from small “species” tulips in naturalized woodland areas to larger tulips that fit formal garden plantings from beds to borders. The upright flowers may be single or double, and vary in shape from simple cups, bowls, and goblets to more complex forms. Height ranges from 6 inches to 2 feet. One tulip grows on each stem, with two to six broad leaves per plant.

HOW TO GROW TULIPS

If it rains weekly, do not water. However, if there is a dry spell and it does not rain, you should water the bulbs weekly until the ground freezes.

Rainy summers, irrigation systems, and wet soil are death to tulips. Never deliberately water a bulb bed unless in a drought. Wet soil leads to fungus and disease and can rot bulbs. Add shredded pine bark, sand, or any other rough material to the soil to foster swift drainage.

Apply compost annually to provide nutrients needed for future blooms.

In the spring, when leaves emerge, feed your tulip the same bulb food or bone meal which you used at planting time. Water well.

Deadhead tulips as soon as they go by, but do not remove the leaves!

Allow the leaves to remain on the plants for about 6 weeks after flowering. The tulips need their foliage to gather energy for next year’s blooms! After the foliage turns yellow and dies back, it can be pruned off.

Large varieties may need replanting every few years; small types usually multiply and spread on their own.

 

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How to Winterize Your Lawn Mower

How to Winterize Your Lawn Mower

A couple of critical maintenance measures are all it takes for you to prevent major damage.  If you want your mower to last for decades, you’ll be smart to follow the following step:

Clean the Deck – Ideally, you should be in the habit of doing this throughout the season because keeping the blade housing clean helps to ensure optimal mower performance. But the task is essential before winter to prevent moisture in the grass clippings from causing rust and corrosion to the underside of the deck.

A shot with the garden hose might be enough to remove the clippings, especially if they’re fresh. For dried-on clippings, try a plastic paint scraper or an old bristled pot scrubber; wear heavy work gloves to protect your hands from the sharp blade. If you have silicone spray handy, spray the underside of the deck with it to prevent future buildup.

Store the mower in a dry location. When stowing your mower, we recommend putting a container of mothballs near the deck to prevent mice and other rodents from nesting in the dormant machine.

Prep the Mower for Storage

For a Gas-Powered Mower: Stabilize the Fuel
Leaving fuel in the tank all winter can wreak havoc on the engine. Water from condensation can combine with ethanol in the gas, causing clogs, corrosion, and other problems throughout the fuel system. Come springtime, you could be in for a professional carburetor cleaning to the tune of $75 to $100.

If there’s only a little fuel left after the final mow of the season, your best bet is to run the tank dry. If you keep your mower in the basement during the winter, you should remove the fuel regardless of how much is left because storing it inside could be a fire hazard. You can use a turkey baster or siphon to remove larger quantities of fuel.

If you store the mower in a garage or shed, it’s wise to fill the tank with gas and add stabilizer—or even better, use gas that has stabilizer already added. (You may find stand-alone stabilizer, and gas with added stabilizer at home centers or gas stations.) For good measure, run the mower for a few minutes so that the stabilized fuel can work its way through the carburetor.

For an Electric Mower: Remove the Battery
Remove the batteries from electric mowers and store them inside your home to minimize temperature fluctuation. Extreme temperatures can shorten the life span of battery cells and cause them to fail prematurely. Most batteries do best when stored between 40° and 80° F. (Check the owner’s manual for the appropriate range for your mower.)

Routine oil changes will help extend the life of any engine, as will changing or cleaning the air filter. Spark plugs used to be more of a concern, but their improved technology has reached the point where you need to change the spark plugs only every few years.

 

Information provided by:  Consumer Reports

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Popular service areas include: Lake Holiday, Oswego, Sandwich, Sugar Grove, and Yorkville. (see more areas)

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Fall Lawn Maintenance

Fall Lawn Maintenance

Don’t Stop Mowing Just Yet … Only cut your grass if it is still growing. Once the temperatures consistently drop below 50 degrees during the day, it’s time to put away the mower for the season.

Fall yard maintenance is all about helping your lawn finish strong so that it can withstand the bitter temperatures ahead. It’s important to continue watering and mowing your lawn as needed. Once the season draws to a close and the temperature begins to drop, you should set your mower’s blades to their lowest setting for the last two cuts of the season. This will allow more sunlight to reach the crown of the grass and allow the soil to dry out faster in the spring.

Aerate and seed your lawn early in the fall with cool-weather grass seed to take advantage of the warmer soil. Overseed and overwater your lawn to maximize the aeration process and give your new grass a quick kickstart.

Is your lawn looking a little patchy? Fall is also a great time to handle any bare, bald spots on your lawn. The easiest way to handle the dead areas in your lawn is to pick up an all-in-one lawn repair mixture from your local home improvement or lawn care store. This solution usually contains a mixture of grass seed, fertilizer, and organic mulch.

 

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Popular service areas include: Lake Holiday, Oswego, Sandwich, Sugar Grove, and Yorkville. (see more areas)

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Fall planting of trees and shrubs

Fall planting of trees and shrubs

Many times, the ideal time to begin planting trees and shrubs is six weeks before the first sign of hard frost. September through November is the ideal time for tree planting because it allows the roots to become established before the ground freezes and winter sets in.

Fall season planting (mid-August through mid-October) offers many advantages that may outweigh spring planting. Transpiration is low and root generation potential is high. The temperatures are typically moderate to cool and are easier on the plants so there is less chance for the trees to be stressed by extreme heat. The fall moisture (rains) helps the trees and shrubs establish their root systems. When the air temperatures are cooler than the soil, new root growth is encouraged without new top growth. The result is a stronger, better developed root system for the next spring when the plant begins to grow. Mulching with wood chips helps retain the soil’s required moisture.

If you wait too long into the fall season (November – December) to plant, you run the risk of poor root growth and increased failure rate. Conifers, in fact, need a slightly earlier start than hardwoods, preferring the warmer soil temperatures of the summer to early fall.

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© 2020 Aztech Landscaping of Sandwich, IL provides landscaping services and decorative stone patios.
Popular service areas include: Lake Holiday, Oswego, Sandwich, Sugar Grove, and Yorkville. (see more areas)

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Tips for Hot Summer Weather

Tips for Hot Summer Weather

One of the biggest challenges you can face when maintaining your landscape is creating a design which can withstand a long, hot summer. Hot weather is the sworn enemy of many of the traditional landscaping elements used on residential properties. We wanted to offer some tips to help maintain your outdoor living space that you and your family and friends can enjoy throughout the summer months and beyond. 

#1 – Find Some Shade

It is difficult for some plants to ensure direct sunlight all day long. By putting some of your sensitive plants in portable pots, you can move them into shaded areas during the heat of the day for protection. If you can’t move some of your plants, try erecting temporary shade such as a fabric umbrella which can give the plants a break while the temperatures soar.

#2 – Water Early in the Day

This just might be the most important tip you can receive for landscaping during the summer. If possible, get out and water your property early in the morning. By getting an early start on your watering, you will be able to avoid the issue of having the water evaporate before it has a chance to soak into the soil. Also, you need to avoid leaving your plants soggy overnight, as this is bad for their health. By watering early in the day, the water will have evaporated by the time night rolls around, and you will be ready to repeat the process tomorrow. Of course, if you don’t have time in the morning to water manually, you can consider setting up an automatic sprinkler system to do the work for you.

#3 – Use Plenty of Mulch

Mulch is one of your greatest allies in the battle against summer heat. With at least a couple inches of mulch in your beds, you will be able to keep the temperature down under the surface, and the moisture level will stay higher as well. In addition to the functional benefits, mulch also looks great.

#4 – Keep the Grass Long

Cutting your grass short is asking for trouble in hot weather. Even if you like the look of short grass, let it grow to at least three inches in the summer to avoid the risk of burning up the blades. Short grass will have nowhere to hide under the sun, and you may scorch the roots as a result. Get into the habit of cutting the lawn long during the summer months and move back shorter (if you wish) as autumn arrives.

#5 – When You Water, Go Deep

Instead of frequently applying just a bit of water to your lawn, try watering less often but adding more water when you do. By watering deeply, you will reach the roots, which is the entire point of watering the lawn in the first place. If watering by hand, it will take a bit of time to add enough water to get down to the root level – but your patience will be rewarded with a beautiful lawn.

 

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© 2020 Aztech Landscaping of Sandwich, IL provides landscaping services and decorative stone patios.
Popular service areas include: Lake Holiday, Oswego, Sandwich, Sugar Grove, and Yorkville. (see more areas)

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