Urban gardens

Vegetable gardens look to be "Sweet 'n' Neat" next year, thanks to some new varieties of tomatoes by that very name. More and more urban dwellers are joining in the latest trend of growing their own produce, and tomatoes are the No. 1 choice of those growing edibles.

Gardeners can choose from several new varieties, such as Sweet 'n' Neat Scarlet, Sweet 'n' Neat Cherry, Sweet 'n' Neat Yellow and an impressive Little Sun Yellow. While determinate varieties fit a smaller garden situation, these new patio varieties open the door even wider, enticing everyone to grow some, even if it is in a container.

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Today's children are growing up in a fast-food world where poor nutrition and lack of outdoor time are common. Children involved in growing vegetables may become future gardeners, growing fresh vegetables for their families one day.

Roof issues

As if homeowners don't have enough chores to keep them busy, many shingle manufacturers now recommend periodic cleaning of the roof surface. You heard right. Many roofs need to be washed to keep them in good shape.

The black streaks seen on many roofs are algae growth which, left unchecked, can shorten the life expectancy of the roof by feeding on the limestone filler used in some newer shingles, according to GAF Materials Corp. of Wayne, N.J., a manufacturer of roofing products since 1886. Proper cleaning can kill the algae.

This phenomenon is quite common in the hot, humid Southern states, where algae can be an extreme problem. If you are thinking of putting on a new roof, you can try to eliminate the need for this chore by requesting that your contractor install algae-resistant shingles.

Draining chore

Some of the most common homeowner plumbing complaints are dripping or leaking fixtures, leaky pipes, low water flow and, at the top of the list, clogged drains.

Before calling in the pros, there are a few things you can try to unclog the drains. Modern drains have a P-shaped trap that is designed to hold a small amount of water to act as a seal against the release of sewer gases. The shape of the trap may also allow for the accumulation of hair or other debris that are washed down the tub's drain.

Ideally, you would use a plumber's snake (a flexible cable with an auger on one end), which is pushed down the drain in order to clear or collect the blockages. The clog can either be pushed further down the drain past the P-trap, or the debris will become entangled on the auger end of the snake and is pulled back out of the drain. In either case, this is a messy, smelly repair. Use rubber gloves, eye protection and a drop cloth to cover the surfaces.

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