Answers to Questions about Outdoor Spaces Answers to Questions about Outdoor Spaces

Q. I have a private well for irrigation. Earlier this summer I tried to fill up a tiny kiddie pool and quickly saw that the water was orangish, so I stopped. Just last week, I noticed that the kids' feet were orange after running around the yard without shoes on. My guess is that this is from iron in the water. Whatever it is, is it unhealthy for the lawn itself, and more importantly for the kids?

A. You might have the water checked to see if it safe to use as intended. A certain amount of iron is necessary for healthy plants. The orange color on your children's' feet is more likely from one of the Rust fungi - Puccinia species - rather than from groundwater. Most of the northern grasses can be affected, Perennial Ryegrass being the most commonly affected turf. The reddish orange "dust" that rubs off when passers-by walk across an affected area of turf is the spore from the fruiting fungi.

Rust diseases generally need two host plant species to complete their reproductive cycle. Wheat and Barbary is the host in one of the Rust diseases, which is why Barbary (Berberis sp.) is on the noxious weed lists. The ban on planting Barbary has been lifted in many communities where wheat production is not a livelihood. This is also the same disease that has Daylily growers concerned as it can infect their nursery stock.

Q. I need to recoat my 20+ year old pool. What is involved? There is not a pattern or fancy details, just a blue rim and white sides and bottom. Now is the best time as the temps are in the 65-80's - summer is way too hot at 110+ and spring will be here in a month with 80-100 temps. I need to get this job done before the pool gets ruined.

A. This is not an easy task, Re-glassing a pool can be very labor intensive and time consuming, especially if you have not done a pool before. Call a Fiberglass Pool resurfacing company before you try to take on a project like this yourself.

Q. How do I clean hot tub jet bearings?

A. Remove the jets from the spa and place them in a bucket of cleaning solution. I recommend using Cascade automatic dishwashing soap and water in a 5-gallon paint bucket. Use one cup of Cascade to 5 gallons of water and soak for at least one hour. Then take each jet and agitate by hand up and down in the Cascade solution - wear rubber gloves. Spray with a kitchen sink sprayer back through the jet body while spinning the jets and turning the action on the jet insert. You will notice an immediate free spinning action as the bearings become clean and rinsed. This puts them back in the almost new condition.

Q. We are in the process of building an outdoor kitchen complete with sink, fridge, burners and a barbeque pit. I want to insert the pit into the counter. This will be a propane pit. The counter top and sides will be made of slate. Are there any special precautions I need to take to make sure the pit does not end up burning the deck down?

A. The sides and top surface being slate, there are no concerns for heat protection. Under the side of a pit or barbeque, there should be a huge concern. There is a danger of fire to any material not fireproof under the appliance and on the sides. Best to leave as much area space on the sides and under the BBQ or pit as possible, excluding the top mounting surfaces, of course. The side and underside of the appliance, as you are well aware of, get hot. That heat must have plenty of air space around it.

It might be best to check out a few pits at a local patio shop, BBQ and fireplace shop, etc. The intent is to see how much air space is beneath any cabinet. Material composition aside is allowed for heat radiation. Some have small air ventilation vents to allow combustion air in as well as air for cooling the inside of the enclosure from heat radiation. That may not be needed. Air vents are used when interior space inside the enclosure is limited.

Q. I have very stained plastic patio chairs that are suppose to be white. What can I clean them with?

A. Generally, outdoor stuff can be cleaned with a solution of 25 percent household bleach and water with a dash of detergent. Wet it down, apply the solution, scrub a bit, and rinse thoroughly. That should do it. The above solution is quite caustic. Wear waterproof gloves when scrubbing with it, keep it off of plants and dogs, and protect your eyes. Do not let it sit on the furniture more than about five minutes to avoid de-glossing the finish.

Q. My husband and I are about to assemble a large wooden play set in our yard for our son. We plan to use mulch surrounding the set for safety. Does anyone know if it makes a difference if we mulch before or after we build the set?

A. The only time it would make a difference if the mulch were already down is when you dig the footings for the play set. Depending on the type of mulch you plan to use, it should be pulled or raked back before digging and you should try not to get any of the excavated soil mixed with it. If you can wait to put it down until after the play set is built, you will find it easier to build the play set, put down landscape fabric (if you intend to use it as a barrier layer between the subsoil), and add the mulch.

Q. What looks nicer and lasts longer, pre-treated pine or cypress?

A. Pressure treatment deeply protects wood against water and insect damage. Pressure treated pine is perfect for any climate and will endure the outdoors for years. Cypress grows in southern swamps and is naturally resistant to water and insect decay by producing the compound "cypressine." Both woods can be left natural, but will last longer if finish or sealant is applied.

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