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Handy Hints for the Garden

Tip #17 Grafting plants: With a sharp knife cut a 2.5cm long strip of bark from both the understock and the new grafting plant. Tie the stems firmly together with budding tape. Don't forget to remove suckers below the graft so that they do not compromise the new graft.

Tip #20 Caring for roses: Newly planted roses should be well watered for the first few months as well as during the first two summers to establish their roots. It is beneficial to give roses good, regular, deep watering. In order to avoid the risk of fungal disease, watering should be done in the morning.

Tip #22 Pruning fruit trees: It is essential to prune fruit trees so that sunlight can easily reach all the branches and maximise successful fruiting.

Tip #32 Installing garden lights: The transformer should be installed at a minimum height of 30cm above ground level, away from the proximity of sprinkler heads. Low voltage cable should be laid into position. Plug in the transformer and turn it on. Connect lights and push them into their positions in the ground.

Tip #34 Planting bulbs: Dig up bulb and remove any corms growing on its side. Dig a hole in the soil, mix a trowel of fertiliser at the bottom, then replant the bulb. The corms should be planted twice as deep. Apply mulch to retain moisture. Fertilise again in Spring when new growth appears.

Tip #46 Planting seedling grown from seed: When the seedlings sprout their first leaves you should gradually expose them to a little more sun each day for a week. The seedlings can then be transplanted into the garden. This is best done early in the morning when it's cooler. Water the seedlings before removing from punnet by their leaves. They should be planted firmly into soil and watered with half strength liquid fertiliser.

Tip #52 Installing a sprinkler system: Lay out the components where you intend to install them. Begin at the tap and cut the polytube to the required lengths and connect with joiners, elbows or tees. Install pop-up sprinklers temporarily above ground, and turn on the water to test performance and check for any leakages.

Tip #56 Weed control: Most summer weeds can be effectively controlled with one of the herbicides that work only through green tissues, not through the branches, trunk or soil. Purchase a weeding wand for easy application and apply to the mature leaves as well as the new growth.

Tip #58 Compost techniques: Do not place sticks or branches, bulbous weeds such as onion weed, oxalis and nut grass, and any diseased plant parts into the compost. All kitchen vegetable and fruit peelings, tea leaves and coffee grounds should be included. So can newspapers, grass clippings, leaves, animal manures and human hair.

Tip #60 Indoor plant care: When a favourite plant needs re-potting, choose a larger container and use a good quality potting mix. Remember that most indoor plants die from over fertilising and lack of sunlight. It is recommended that you use a nine-month slow release fertiliser and make sure plants receive lots of indirect natural light.

Tip #62 Saving water: For optimum results water your garden early in the morning. The reasoning is that evening watering encourages fungal disease and watering during the day is less effective due to increased evaporation. Also remember that too much fertiliser makes lawns thirsty and healthy ones use less water than sick ones.

Tip #64 Preparing soil for planting: Remove the grass and dig a large hole, turning the soil over. To ensure good drainage, add lots of organic matter until the soil is slightly higher than the surrounding ground.

Tip #67 Garden pests and disease: Most scale insects can be sprayed with Malascale, a mixture of Malathion and White Oil, which is not overly toxic. Sudden die back of plants is usually caused by root rot. Remove and dispose affected plants. Improve drainage before planting a rot-resistant variety.

Tip #70 Removing weeds: To get rid of weeds and grass growing in the cracks in your walls, driveway or lawn, just pour boiling water on them once a day for three days.

Handy Hints for Painting

Tip #73 Painting techniques: Tradesmen use the term "cutting in" for getting a neat join where paints of different colours meet. To achieve this effect on window frames and panel doors, load the brush lightly so you don't cut into the edge of the glass, but allow a thick strip of paint about 3mm wide to protect the putty.

Tip #76 Repainting a peeling surface: Clean away flakes with a blade and smooth edges with sandpaper. To make old paint easier to remove, use an electric hot air stripper or chemical paint stripper. Then sand, wash down with sugar soap and apply undercoat or primer to bare areas before painting.

Tip #78 Sealing cracks: Apply white cellulose filler mix into crack or hole and smooth over with a putty knife or damp cloth. When dry, smooth with medium-fine sandpaper. Fill larger holes in stages, allowing a few hours drying between applications.

Tip #80 Paint brush care: After painting with oil based paint, clean brushes in turps. For water based paints use warm soapy water only. Hang brush bristles down to dry. Always clear remaining solvent from the bristles by twirling the brush before re-using.

Tip #82 Paint roller techniques: Wash roller in paint solvent and roll out dust and particles. Load roller with paint and test roll a small area before you start. Use roller in a WW shape around one metre square and finish off with a vertical down stroke with light pressure for a smooth finish.

Tip #84 Applying sealants: Clean and dry the area before applying sealant in a continuous and steady flow. Push Sealant ahead of nozzle, making contact with both sides of the joint. Add masking tape to give a neat line and remove immediately after finishing. Smooth over with a spatula to improve finished appearance.

Tip #86 Painting roofs and metal surfaces: PAINTING ROOFS AND METAL SURFACES: Disconnect down pipes from your water tank before starting. Wire brush any rusted surfaces and remove debris by water blasting roof. Apply rust neutralisers and fill holes with epoxy resin filler. Paint rusted areas with Metal Primer and finish with two coats of Roof Paint.

Tip #88 Hanging wallpaper: For difficult areas like doors and windows hang the paper so that it overlaps. Gently run down the side of the architrave with the blunt part of the scissors and cut along the line. Smooth back onto wall, pressing the edge of the paper into the angle of the wall and architrave.

Tip #90 Using abrasives: Don't use coarser than you need and always test your job before you start. When moving from coarse to fine sandpaper, double the grit number for each successive stage, until the desired degree of finish is reached. And remember, straight line sanding with the grain scratches least.

Tip #93 Painting professionally: Only dip half of the bristles into paint before tapping gently against both sides of the tin to remove excess. A piece of string tied across a paint tin can support the wet brush and can also be used to wipe off excess paint. Use a criss-crossing stroke to spread paint evenly and start from the unpainted area, working back into the painted area, always maintaining a wet edge to avoid lap marks. To avoid film on the surface of your paint tins, store partially empty paint cans upside down. The film that forms on the surface of the paint is then on the bottom when the paint is used again, making it much easier to keep film particles off your finished project.

Tip #95 Removing paint stains: Paint spatters on windows can be removed with nail polish remover. Old stains can be softened with turpentine or linseed oil then scraped off with a razor blade. Dip steel wool in hot vinegar or liquid cleanser to remove fresh paint stains. Baby oil can be used to remove paint from hands and face.

Tip #97 Spray painting: A professional finish is obtained by keeping the sprayer upright and spraying parallel to the painting surface. Move the sprayer slowly and steadily using the entire arm to maintain uniform spacing between sprayer and surface. Start with a fine mist from a distance then work a little closer to the finish. To ensure paint doesn't run, apply several light coats.

Tip #99 Painting a deck: Decks made of hard, durable timbers like batu or merbau can probably be left to weather naturally. Most timbers will eventually change to a silver grey colour. There are a number of excellent finishes available. Timber gloss and low sheen acrylics are ideal for these areas.

Tip #101 Taping Tips: Avoid stretching tape and pull off foil up to half a metre at a time, press down a small area, unwind the same distance again, press that down and continue. Lay tape into surface depressions and press edges down firmly to prevent seepage.

Handy Hints for Outdoors

Tip #103 Maintaining gutters and downpipes: Remove leaves and other debris with a small brush, using the garden hose to wash away the pieces. Flush the downpipes with the water turned onto full. Fit plastic mesh gutter guards into gutters to ensure leaves are kept out.

Tip #105 Mowing tips: It is better to under-mow rather than over-mow. The new grass should be at least 6cm high before mowing. Ensure the mower blades are sharp and remove no more than one third of the grass length the first time. Thereafter, gradually lower the blades.

Tip #107 Lawn mower maintenance: Store the mower in a dry, sheltered area of your garage or garden shed. If the storage area is prone to dampness, sit the mower on a raised platform so that it will not deteriorate. This should also prevent insects from nesting in the mower.

Tip #109 Outdoor furniture repairs: When outdoor furniture becomes rickety, it can be fixed using nuts, washers and bolts, and coarse-threaded self-drilling screws. Simply return the weakened joint to its original position and clamp it in place before inserting a couple of screws or bolts.

Tip #112 Securing a gate: Insert chocks under the sagging gate so that it's returned to its correct position. Then fit a decent set of hinges, using at least two or three nuts and bolts as well as screws. To make the gate more rigid, drive in a star stake next to the gatepost and attach it through pre-drilled holes.

Tip #115 Setting a rat trap: To fool the rats bait the trap without setting it for several days. Use nuts and pumpkin seeds which are hard to dislodge from the trap. Only when the bait is disappearing regularly should you set the trap. If you prefer to remove the rat unhurt purchase a special trap with a one-way trapdoor.

Tip #117 Safe lifting: Place your legs slightly apart so that the object is between them. Bend at the knees before gripping the object firmly then, keeping the back straight, straighten your legs slowly. Allow your leg and thigh muscles, not your back, to take the strain.

Tip #119 Outdoor furniture care: Clean outdoor furniture using a mild detergent and water, remembering to rinse clean. Then apply a product designed to withstand the damaging effects of weather. Always make sure they are recommended for the materials you have.

Tip #121 Laying concrete: If hand mixing, do it on a large sheet of plywood or heavy-gauge polythene. Never mix concrete on the dirt. All the preparation should be complete before the concrete is mixed. Thus the pour can be completed in one operation.

Tip #123 Setting a level post: Dig a hole using a post-hole digger. Add gravel into the bottom to aid drainage. Drop the post into the cavity, big end first, and add a little dirt. With a stick the size of a shovel handle tamp the dirt firmly. Continue to add dirt, stopping regularly to check the post remains vertical.

Tip #125 Sealing terracotta or slate: Remove stains with advanced cleaning products. Choose penetrating sealers for external areas and either a high gloss or low gloss sealer for internal areas

Handy Hints for Maintenance

Tip #127 Hammering hints: To prevent splitting near ends or when nailing dense timbers like Jarrah and Red Gum, drill a hole the same size or slightly smaller than the nail to act as a guide.

Tip #129 Reviving cabinet handles: Use a sponge dampened with liquid household cleaner to clean wooden handles and knobs. Remove grease stains with a clean cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol. Blot dry and roughen surface with fine sandpaper.

Tip #131 Renovating furniture: Small dents in wooden surfaces can be removed by covering them with a wet cloth and some thicknesses of newspaper before ironing over the dent until the wood swells back. Stickers can be removed from wood by simply applying vinegar. Give the vinegar time to soak in, then scrape off.

Tip #133 Pruning tool care: When cutting plant material try not to twist or wrench pruners sideways. Wipe blades clean with a well oiled rag after every use and remove any twigs, leaves or sap from the mechanism.

Tip #135 Fire prevention: To prevent small fires getting out of control keep fire blankets and extinguishers in the kitchen and workshop. Install smoke alarms outside all bedrooms because it's more difficult to smell smoke when you are asleep.

Tip #137 Installing a skylight: Remove one roof tile or cut away sufficient steel roofing to allow placement of the skylight. Slip the weatherproof backing plate into position under roofing at the higher point and over existing roofing at the lower point. Use a keyhole saw or jigsaw to make an opening in the ceiling for diffuser panel. Climb into the roof and attach flexishaft through the ceiling. Screw the diffuser panel into position. Finally attach the flexishaft to the diffuser panel.

Tip #139 Cleaning and protecting upholstery: Remove any solids from the stained area and blot up as much as you can. Apply all treatment from the back of the fabric if possible and don't overwork. Use the back of a spoon to apply cleaning liquids and always rinse or air after treatment.

Tip #141 Fix a leaking vase: Coat the inside with a thick layer of paraffin wax and allow to harden. Otherwise simply paint over the crack on the inside with clear nail varnish.

Tip #143 Replacing halogen globes: Never handle new tungsten halogen globes because oils from the hand can cause the globe to fail or shatter. Use a tissue to handle globes and if necessary clean globes with methylated spirits. Remember to store globes on an angle for them to remain active.

Tip #145 Picture hanging: To locate the stud tap along the wall and to listen for a change in sound. Better still, use an electronic stud finder to help you mark the spot before screwing the hook to the wall. Make sure the screw is long enough to allow for the 10mm of plaster.

Tip #147 Scratched timber furniture: Try liquid shoe polish in a matching colour, white petroleum jelly or a mixture of vinegar and olive oil. Sometimes just a fresh coat of wax or polish will do the job. Fill larger scratches with wood filler and touch up with a matching stain.

Tip #149 Window locks: Windows with double hung sashes are easily protected with a key lockable bolt action system. These are fitted to the inside of the window frame at the centre line. Then, while the window is locked, the hardened steel locking bolt stops either sash from being opened.

Tip #151 Cutting plywood: To prevent plywood from splitting when you saw it, lay down masking tape in the area you are about to cut. For a clean cut and splinter-free finish when cutting fibreboard, use masking tape and cut through the tape.

Tip #153 Lubricating hinges: Use Vaseline rather than oil as it will not run and dirty your paintwork.

Tip #155 Choosing door locks: Door locks are only as good as the door they're fitted to. Hollow-core doors are easily smashed open so upgrade them to solid timber. For top security, choose a double cylinder "deadlock" that can be locked from the inside and outside.

Tip #157 Sawing tips: Lubricate the sides but not the teeth of your saw with bar soap. This will cause the saw to cut more smoothly. Saws should also be hung or covered to avoid damaging teeth. When storing saws for the long term, lightly coat the teeth with machine oil to prevent rust.

Tip #159 Squeaking doors: Try sprinkling the hinges with spray or lubricant. Non-stick vegetable spray will also help to lubricate squeaky hinges and sticky locks.

Tip #161 Unblocking sinks: Flush sink with a cup of ammonia in a bucket of boiling water. Use a piece of wire with a hook bent into the end to scrape out any blocking soap and hair from pipes. Smelly floor drains can be flushed out with a bucket or two of boiling water mixed with ammonia.

Tip #163 Installing insulation: Wear a dust mask, goggles, gloves, overalls and long sleeves to avoid health risks. Transfer the batts into the roof before opening them so they remain easy to store and transport. Always start at the most distant point from the access hatch and work forward, leaving odd shaped areas until last.

Tip #165 Drilling scews: When fixing to timber the embedment depth should be 25mm into the timber being fastened and 20mm for plasterboard and chipboard. When fixing to metal the embedment depth should be the thickness of the material being fastened to, plus drilling capacity and three threads protruding beyond the metal being fastened.

Tip #167 Choosing nuts and bolts: Use Hex Head bolts when fixing metal to timber, and where practical put a metal piece under the head and washer under the nut. When fixing a Cup Head bolt put a washer between wood and nut. When fixing metal to timber, use a metal piece under the head of a Coach Screw.

Tip #169 Simple power sanding: To avoid the edge digging in, heat building up or clogging, keep the sander moving along the surface. Sand lengthways along surface and don't press too hard, let the sander do the work. Remember to wear eye protection and use low speed for fibreglass and non-ferrous materials.

Tip #171 Tool care: To prevent drying out and splinters on the wooden handles of tools, rub them occasionally with a mixture of two parts mineral turpentine to one part linseed oil. Scrub rusty implements with steel wool, then apply oil.

Tip #173 Rising damp: To fix rising damp check that paths around the home are set below the level of the damp-proof course. In addition, check that nothing obstructs the airflow in every vent. Check also that drainpipes run into proper drains and paint outside walls with good acrylic paint or lime wash so that they can breathe.

Tip #175 Building a stud wall: Take measurements of the area and include space for a door if needed. Space the studs (the vertical timbers) so that the door will fit properly. Stud walls should be located above the floor joist. Assemble the stud wall on the floor and lift it into position.

Tip #177 Unblocking drains: Place rubber plunger tightly over the drain and fill the sink with water until plunger is covered. Pump plunger up and down. If that does not clear the blockage, look for an obstruction in the S-bend. Place a bucket under the sink, loosen the slip nut or undo the drainage plug at the base of the S-bend.

Tip #179 Installing timber panelling: Place the boards against a wall, remembering to keep them out of any direct sunlight to acclimatise them to the surrounding conditions. Then, apply protective coating of clear water repellent or polyurethane.

Tip #181 Squeaky floorbaords: To stop squeaks pour talcum powder in the cracks between floorboards. Fix loose floorboards that squeak with a hammer and drive down nails with a nail punch. If this doesn't help, drill holes next to the nails and fix boards with counter-sunk headscrews.

Tip #183 Rivet removal: Remove blind rivets easily to allow repair or replacement work by using a drill bit of the same size as the original hole.

Handy Hints for the Home

Tip #185 Choosing the right nail: Choose a nail that is twice as long than the timber being held. Ensure that the nail is not longer than the combined thickness of the timbers being nailed together.

Tip #187 Ceiling fan wabbles: Check that the fan blades aren't out of balance by clipping a clothes peg mid-way along the leading edge of each blade, one at a time. Turn the fan on to a low speed and see it the added weight stops the wobble. When successful, replace peg with adhesive-backed lead-weighted tape.

Tip #189 Pool maintenance: Before starting up for summer check your water test kit and buy new bottles of liquid reagents because they only last one season. Switch on the pump, check your pool�s filters for holes and tears and discard old cartridges.

Tip #191 Avoid electric shock: Avoid overloading a circuit with too many adapters, which could cause a short. Protect cords from damage. Always make sure your hands are dry before touching any electrical equipment, plugs or sockets.

Tip #193 Installing a deadlock: A double cylinder deadlock is generally accepted as the most secure of all locks. Install one that has a strike flange to protect the door jamb and solid steel pin that cannot be forced.

Tip #195 Ladder safety: When using a ladder always make sure both the legs are evenly placed on the ground. Use wide timber chocks to even up the ladder on sloping surfaces and if possible, nail the chock to the floor to prevent it slipping. Take care around power lines when raising or lowering a metal ladder.

Tip #197 Home security: Never leave keys hidden outside the house and it's a good idea to leave a spare set with your neighbour. Lock away ladders and tools that could be used in a burglary and install movement activated lights to deter thieves.

Tip #199 Home fire safety: If fire breaks out get all the family together and leave the house at once, closing as many doors and windows as possible on the way. Where there is heavy smoke stay low because smoke is less dense closer to the ground where the temperature is lower.

Tip #201 Fixing a flourescent tube: Firstly, turn off light at switch. Remove starter and replace with another to test if the fault is with the starter. If the problem remains, check the pins at the end of the tube for corrosion or damage. Rub lightly with fine sandpaper to remove corrosion. Straighten bent pins with pliers.

Tip #203 Changing a power lead plug: Remove the cover and push it up the cord. Loosen the screws on the terminals and remove wires, noting their position. Cut the cord off clean before removing the outer plastic to expose the three wires. Twist each wire together and connect to correct terminal, tighten screws and replace cover.

Tip #205 Cleaning mildew: Light stains on fabric may be washed out in the laundry. If that fails, try soaking in diluted bleach, rubbing with a cut lemon dipped in salt or dabbing with hydrogen peroxide. Keep moist until the spots fade, rinse and wash as usual.

Tip #207 Mending glassware: Before repairing glass, the broken pieces need to be roughened a little with a diamond scratch to provide a better "key" for adhesive. Use very fine sandpaper or an emery board to smooth out chips on the rim of a glass and squeeze toothpaste onto a soft cloth to remove any minor scratches.

Tip #209 Refrigerator maintenance: Wash and dry the inside regularly using only small amounts of detergent. To prevent mildew, finish off with a cloth dipped in vinegar. A quarter of a cup of ammonia mixed with cold water in a spray bottle helps clean the refrigerator exterior and waxing will prevent soiling.

Tip #212 Cleaning glass lighting: Cover the floor underneath the light fitting with a sheet or towel. Take care not to wet the actual light and use detergent and bleach applied with a soft rag. Then wipe clean with a linen serviette to give it added sparkle.

Tip #214 Installing smoke alarms: For your family's safety, it is important to install smoke alarms. Establish the number of alarms needed and where they'll be installed. Then determine which alarms are best suited for that area. Use products that carry local standards approved symbol.

Tip #216 Mending a fuse: Turn off master switch at fuse box. Remove and return each fuse plug to locate problem. Then, remove the burnt out wire and replace with a length of 8amp (lights) or 15 amps (power) fuse wire. Tighten screws over wire, snip off excess and replace repaired plug in socket and turn power back on.

Tip #218 Circuit breakers: After fitting a circuit breaker you'll never have to rewire another fuse. That's because a circuit breaker cuts off the power before a circuit becomes dangerously overloaded. Then, after the fault has been fixed you can simply switch them back on.