Dear Ken: Should we fertilize more often during the drought? - Earline
Answer: No. Simply follow the guidelines I mentioned several weeks ago for five logically spaced applications around holidays. The remainder for this year are now (Fourth of July), Labor Day and Halloween. It would also be a good idea to apply a wetting agent, like Revive, once or twice this season - especially if you have dense, clay-containing soils at your house. This product allows water and nutrients to penetrate more easily and deeper into the root system. As with fertilizer applications, wait until just before a watering period on your designated day.
Dear Ken: My new furnace man wants to replace my expensive, washable filter with a regular one and also wants to put the filter on the outside of the furnace. What do you think of that? - Joy
Answer: I think he's on the right track. So-called washable filters just don't work very well after they've been in place for a while. Over time they accumulate tiny particles - such as pet dander, pollen and even mold spores - that never really wash out of the interior. It's much better to use that disposable, pleated style.
Sticking the filter in a slot on the side of the furnace is also a good idea. That way you can check it more often for accumulated dirt, and, when it's time to change it, there's no more wrestling with those clunky metal furnace access covers. Make sure he covers the filter slot with a piece of removable sheet metal as a protective shield. That way, there's no danger of sucking fumes into the system.
For those folks with a crawl space, the prospect of changing the furnace filter is pretty daunting. A simple modification will make this task a breeze. Have a filter frame installed upstairs in the wall where you now have a return air opening. When it's time for a change, you just turn two little tabs, lift up on the grille and insert a new filter.
Dear Ken: Our sewer line recently plugged up from stuck toilet paper. A plumber blamed the new toilets and said we should flush twice. Isn't that a bad idea? - Jim
Answer: It is, but it is one of the unintended consequences of the low-flow toilet mandate promulgated by the feds about 20 years ago. Your under-floor pipes in the basement must be almost perfectly flat, so there's not enough slope to let the water carry the solids away. Make sure the family knows that the new toilets have a dual flush mechanism: flick the handle for liquids, but hold it down 15 seconds or so to flush solids. That way you get the bottom 1/3 or so of the tank water to go into the bowl. You could also switch to so-called septic tank paper, which dissolves more readily when it gets wet.
Ken Moon is a former homebuilder - and now home inspector - in the Pikes Peak region. His radio show, "Around the House," is carried on KRDO, AM 1240 and FM 105.5, at 9 a.m. Saturdays. Contact him at www.aroundthehouse.com