More Useful Stuff
It’s our duty as men to mark our territory, as we see all dominant lions do when showing other male lions who’s boss. The best way to ensure your jungle has your signature is (no, not peeing on all the walls) to take good care of it. So put on your working gloves (and boots) and get to it!
Root out your weed problem by Matt Keightley of Rosebank Landscaping, People’s Choice winner at last year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show – Weeds don’t just spoil the aesthetics of a well-curated flowerbed, they leach it of nutrients too. Do damage control every other week in summer; once a month the rest of the year. Act as soon as you see tiny signs of leaf growth. An old-fashioned fork trumps any new gadget. Pick your target and get straight to the root of the issue – yank weeds out at the surface and they’ll be back within days. Shove the uprooted blight in a bin bag; if you let it fall on the soil, it’ll seed again. And never add weeds to your compost. (You have compost, right?) Laying 5cm of mulch – try bark chips from your nearest nursery – between plants will block out the light that weeds need to germinate, but it may prevent purposefully planted seeds from coming through. Now, where did you leave them…?
Make your neighbours green with lawn envy – by Mick Hunt, award-winning head groundsman at Lord’s, the home of cricket – When grass gets too long its roots heat up, which creates a breeding ground for disease. Trim to just shorter than your pinky once every two weeks. To emulate the stripes you see at sports grounds, use a mower with a back roller – rolling first in one direction, then the other. Or create a checkerboard effect by going up and down, then horizontally. To keep it neat, place string down and follow the lines. Going to compulsive lengths is fine. Remember: eye-rolling onlookers are just jealous. For a natural-looking, healthy lawn, feed it three times a year with slow-release fertiliser: first in mid-October, then with a nitrogen-rich variety in January, and finally in May to see it through winter. Water it twice a week (if the weather doesn’t) and stroke it tenderly each night.
Take the pane out of a streak-free window by David Ayers of Kärcher, who gives the London Eye’s glass a clear view of the British capital – Cleaning a window is easy: all you need is some soapy water and a bit of elbow grease. Maybe a ladder and George Formby on the iPod. But for glass that gleams in the sun, it all comes down to drying. Act fast to avoid watermarks, especially on hot days. Use a handheld Window Vac (R750, DionWired) for streak-free panes. Or get hands-on and wipe with a squeegee blade: start at the top and snake your way into the lower corners. Finish the job by buffing with a dry cloth. Use old towels. New ones will shed fluff and attract unwanted questions from your partner.
Clean your filthy braai grid by Bertus Basson, owner and chef of Overture and judge on Ultimate Braai Master – First off, stay away from those steel brushes. The bristles might come off, and no one needs those things getting stuck in their food. The old half-an-onion trick works well, but one thing you want to really avoid is soapy water. It’ll leave toxic residue and scare off your guests. The best way is probably the easiest: just burn the old braai’s leftovers right off the grill with the fresh flames of your new fire. That’ll make the muck soft enough to wipe off with some old newspaper. (Don’t listen to guys who’ll have you believe it’s unhealthy; that’s the way my dad used to do it, and I’m still here.) There’s no real need to scrub the inside of your drum every time – that’s just making extra work for yourself for no good reason – but if you’re precious about your grill, rub it down with some vegetable oil to prevent it from rusting. So it’s not complicated, but do it regularly. Chucking out the coals after every braai, and doing a deeper clean every fifth fire or so, should do it.
Keep your pool sparkling, shark-ready clean by Maryke Musson, curator at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town – We have 160 different pools at the Two Oceans Aquarium, housing over 3 000 permanent residents: turtles, jellyfish, penguins and more. Keeping them clean requires regular skimming – you could flex a few muscles while scooping out leaves with a net, or invest in a good quality vacuum cleaner, such as the Bullshark. (We would too, but the ragged-tooth sharks in there aren’t fond of uninvited guests.) Brushing is also important – I’d recommend getting in there and giving the walls a proper wipe twice a week. Skimming and brushing will keep the chemicals at bay, as long as you ensure the walls and floors of your pool are free of algae build-up. Something else to keep an eye on: the filters. If they get blocked (from leaves and sand, not shark poop, like ours) open them up and give them a good stir. Your best option might be to install a saltwater chlorinator. You might have to channel your inner mad scientist to monitor the pH and alkalinity levels, but other than that it’s as easy as tossing a couple of bags of salt into your pool every summer – no mess, no fuss and no chlorine eyes.
Make your driveway look like a showroom by Richard Tipper, who also preps top-of-the-range cars for motor shows and photoshoots – First, start with a hose-down to lift off dirt, or you’ll scratch grit into your paintwork. The quality of what you touch the car with is essential. Go for a wash-mitt, as sponges can collect grit in the air pockets. Lamb’s wool is by far the best. Mix PH-neutral soap into your water. Detergent-based soaps strip your chassis of polish. Washing-up liquid is the worst offender. Wash your car in the shade, as heat prematurely dries the panels, leaving water stains. Polish it under your garage lights that exaggerate imperfections, resulting in a showroom-fresh finish. Lastly, before taking it out again, check the weather.
Open the door to pristine paintwork by Mike Smith of Treasure & Son, who restore castles and listed buildings for English Heritage – Apply a topcoat onto existing paintwork and it’ll soon strip off. Instead, sand the door first and treat bare wood with a base coat (Ronseal is a solid bet) to protect against insects and rot, then a primer to stop the paint on top from peeling. You don’t need artisan R500-a-litre paint; Dulux gives results. Dust settles on wet paint. What’s duller than watching paint dry? Starting again due to lumpy pigment. Avoid this by sanding between every layer of under- and topcoat. A 100-grit sandpaper is ideal. Go with the grain, keeping a wet edge, as going over dry paint creates ridges. Buy a 6cm brush with synthetic filaments – cheap bristles leave marks. Paint job’s well done