Tips & tricks to get your home ready for spring

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While COVID-19 concerns demand social isolation, lots of county residents are staying in their homes, some finding they have more free time to do some work around the house. With spring finally here, local businesses share their advice on how to spruce up your home and get ready for warmer weather.

Air conditioning

The changing weather means that many residents will be turning on their air conditioners for the first time this year. HSC Associates, a heating and air conditioning company based in Ithaca, gets plenty of questions in spring around air conditioning service.

Owner Marvin McHerron said HSC often tries to service heat and air conditioning at the same time to save homeowners time and money, so he recommends checking in on both your systems.

“That way, they’re going to know whether they need to get new equipment or maybe their equipment isn’t working,” McHerron said.

McHerron said it’s beneficial to check heating and air conditioning systems at least once a year to make sure everything is running properly. The best way to tell if you need service or an all-out replacement is age.

“Any systems that are more than 20 years old, you should think about replacing them just more for efficiency and they’re just wearing out,” McHerron said.

HSC has different air conditioning units and brands depending on the type of heating system in the house.

“For anybody who has a warm-air system or a ducted system, we sell the Lennox brand, and if they don’t have anything, … you can go with the duct-less system, and we sell the Mitsubishi brand,” McHerron said.

The difference between the systems is easy to spot, McHerron said.

“It just means that you either have ductwork or you don’t,” he said. “Either you have ductwork in your house with a warm-air system, or you have a boiler system. Boiler system is radiation on the wall, you don’t have any ductwork, so that just radiates out heat. … If you had a warm-air system, it’d be blowing warm air through the registers. Then, you can add the air conditioning right to your ducted system, which would probably be less expensive to do that.”

While having your air conditioning serviced, it’s best to check on your heating system, too, and get the filter replaced, McHerron said.

“That’s the most important part,” he said. “You get out of the heating season, now you’re getting into the air conditioning. You’ve run your furnace all season long. If you haven’t kept up on changing your air cleaner, you need to do it now because now you’re going to go through the cooling season and if your filter is clogged up, it ices up just like your refrigerator does sometimes.”

HSC Associates offers servicing for air conditioning and heating systems. Visit www.hscassociates.com for more information.

Gardening

So, the inside of your house is now a comfortable temperature - time to add some plants.

Daniel Lee, store manager at Ithaca Agway, works in the lawn and garden part of the store, and he said he gets a lot of questions around this time of year on lawn care.

Though the weather continues to fluctuate in the county between warm and cold, Lee said this is still the best time to plant grass.

“They can do it even now even when it’s really cold because the frost will help work the grass seed into the ground, and it germinates when it gets warm enough,” Lee said.

Other gardening possibilities for this time of the year include seed starting for things like fruit trees and caring for houseplants.

Houseplants have become popular at Ithaca Agway, Lee said, and he helps folks all the time decide which plant is best for their home and needs.

“First thing we need to know is how much light they have, which way the windows face, and from there, we would help them pick a plant based on that,” Lee said. “The next thing would be how do they think they are on watering or what have they tried before and failed at. If they tend to overwater, we recommend plants that require more.”

Lee personally recommends houseplants like jades, a succulent plant with small pink or white flowers, for residents who aren’t used to having plants in the home.

“If they have good light, plants like jades or succulents, those tend to be pretty easy,” Lee said.

Ithaca Agway is considered an “essential” business under new regulations implemented by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, so these and other services are readily available to customers.

Other essential businesses include grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and liquor stores.

Classes and assistance

Though all area in-person events have been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, there are plenty of online classes to help residents keep busy while stuck at home.

On March 28 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., check out “Vegetable Gardening 101” by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.

This class, taught by two of CCE’s master gardeners, will help the beginning vegetable gardener learn how to choose a site for their vegetable garden, prepare the soil, start and transplant seeds, how to choose and use compost and mulch, how to care for your plants throughout the season, and when to harvest.  

Get the basics so you can have a great garden no matter how much experience you have.

Fee: $10-$30/person self-determined sliding scale, pay what you can afford.  Register online at: civi.ccetompkins.org/civicrm/event/info?id=1772&reset=1.  Questions? Contact Horticulture Program Manager Jennie Cramer at jrc10@cornell.edu or  (607) 272-2292 ext. 146.

On April 1 from 6 to 8 p.m., join CCE again for “Seed Starting 101.”

Grow everything from artichokes to zucchini from seed at home. Save money and enjoy the miraculous process of seed germination and plant growth in your home to get you through these last weeks of winter and get your garden started early. The class will cover techniques such as cold stratification and scarification as well as simple recipes for making your own potting and fertilizer mixes to save even more money.

Instructors will talk about tools such as grow lights and heat mats and soil blocks.

Cost: $10-$30/person self-determined sliding scale, pay what you can afford. Register and pay online at: civi.ccetompkins.org/civicrm/event/info?id=1770&reset=1. Questions? Contact Horticulture Program Manager Jennie Cramer at jrc10@cornell.edu, (607) 272-2292 ext. 146.

For these and other event listings, check out Tompkins Weekly’s “calendar” page online, which has been adjusted to include community resources made available for residents after COVID-19 changes. Visit tompkinsweekly.com/calendar to view the listing or tompkinsweekly.com/calendar/post to post your own resource or virtual event.

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