Gardening Uncategorized

Complete Gardening Solution

City Garden in a Box
City Garden in a Box

I gotta say.. this is a very cool product for urban gardeners.  Well packaged, complete instructions, and a fascinating soiless growing media: Coconut Fiber, also known as coir. (I have no idea how to pronounce “coir” so I shall call it coconut fiber throughout this article:)

The gable box is packed with all the right stuff:  A seed germination system with coconut fiber discs and a mini green house, seeds, controlled release

City Garden Cucumber Seedlings
Cucumber Seedlings Ready To Plant

fertilizer, and two grow bags containing compressed coconut fiber “bricks”.

The stuff from the box
All The Stuff From The Complete Garden Box

The seeds are for tomato and cucumber plants and I started by following the instructions to hydrate the seed germination discs.  They expand mightily and I dutifully poked holes in them, put seeds in the hole, and covered it up with the clear lid vowing to keep them watered during the germination process. Next the instructions say to gently add water to the coconut fiber in the grow bags. What took up about a quarter of each bag compressed, immediately swelled to about 3 inches from the top of this 3 gallon bag.   Pretty cool!  You add a package of controlled release 14 14 14 fertilizer to the fiber filled bags now so that it can permeate the fiber and be there for the baby plants when they are potted up into the bag after germinating. Once the seedlings are ready you plant them in coconut fiber in the grow bags.  My crop has been superb and my peppers are like an ever bearing tree!

I did need to stake my tomatoes as they grew but I’ve had a nice crop from that grow bag. I was thinking that this product would make a great fundraiser for Middle and High School Ag classes. HydroPro Sales is actually sponsoring fundraisers with the City Garden.  Check out the details  here if you are interested.. looks like a great money maker and these crops definitely grow to provide a nice farm to table at home growing adventure! No tilling or weeding needed! Just a sunny spot and water.

Tomato plant in grow bag


Peppers galore
Peppers galore



Florida Living Gardening Uncategorized

Hiring a Tampa Landscape Designer

When To Turn To a Landscape Designer

Sunny and TropicalSometimes it’s hard to see the big picture when you are looking at what seems to be insurmountable problems with your property’s landscape. Maybe you’ve just moved into the Tampa Bay Area and don’t really know what plants work here.  Maybe you desire a particular style and just want to know how to create it. Maybe your new home has “default builder landscaping” and you want something custom.  Those are all good reasons to hire a designer who can put things into perspective, evaluate your soil and sun shade patterns, suggest the right plantings and give you a list of what will thrive in your yard.

A good landscape designer will providesmithoffsetfront

  • Education
  • Ideas
  • Plant lists
  • Sourcing
  • Pricing
  • Drawings and photo realistic plans

Designers are often affiliated with or familiar with the best landscape contractors to get your job done right.  Independent landscape designers may work with more than one landscape company and can recommend or chose the one they feel will be the best fit for you and your family.  These recommendations can be priceless when considering a makeover.

When it’s hard to visualize your future landscape its time to call in a pro who can make your landscape design come to life before your eyes.  While there are plenty of designers in the Tampa Bay Area,  you might want to check out the cool photo realistic design from  HydroPro Sales and their cool outdoor Facebook page Outdoor Spaces.




Family fishing Florida Living

There’s Fishing.. Then There’s Catching

Catching is Better Than Fishing!
Catching is Better Than Fishing!

I fish more than I catch.  It’s a horrible truth that’s hard to admit.  There is nothing I love more than getting out on the water and fishing.  The anticipation, the hope, the dreams of a great fish dinner.  I can keep that anticipation and hope alive for hours, and often do, waiting for that tide change, waiting for the moon phase to bring the fish to me, trying to find the best ambush spot, praying, lots of praying.   But sometimes nothing you can do makes it happen.  You paddle or ride in with the adrenaline of the day flagging and with sad knowledge it was a blank day.  Wannh!

But then there’s those catching days where you can do no wrong. Every cast is a hookup and you feel like a champion tournament winner!   I was fortunate to experience one of those recently down in one the best fishin’ holes in the world, Englewood Florida.   Englewood is South of Venice and North of Boca Grande.  There are miles of mangroves and the famous “Stump Pass” is what makes the fishing here so great!   Fish enter and exit this small pass with the tides.  The variety and quantity can be mind boggling but the prey, in my mind is trout, redfish and snook.

This particular day, my family wanted to go the beach.  We opted to take the boat since parking at Stump Pass is so limited.  We ran out the intercoastal and whipped up ski alley where I dropped off the beach goers.    I put the Scout in reverse and just backed across ski alley to the other side, anchored up by a fallen australian pine and baited up.  The tide was ripping in.  I cast upstream and drifted down  First cast STRIKE!  Trout on the line!  Landed and in the cooler.  Second cast.. nother one!  Third cast… YEP!!!  I stopped for a minute to text the family to say “non-stop fishing action guys!”  They decide to join me so I ran over and picked em up.  For the next 2 hours, we caught sheeps head, trout and ohh la la.. that gorgeous redfish you see in the picture!  Talk about heaven!

The day was good and fish for dinner was a reality not a dream.



My Vegetable Garden Obsession

It’s A Small Garden Spot But…

My Crowded GardenIn the 3 foot space between my house and a walkway, right next to the pool equipment, I have my vegetable garden.  The area is perhaps 12 feet long and I practice vegetable garden “over planting.”   This is an experiment of mine that sometimes backfires but is sometimes successful. If you’re wondering what over planting is, I basically just crowd things.  I plant tall things in the middle of short things, and the short things.. like lettuce, I plant the heck out of.

As you know, growing lettuce is one of my loves so in any spare spot.  I put lettuce seeds in.. lots of them.  I like to get the mescalin blend seed packs because you never know whats going to come up.   Lettuce surprises me with it’s hardiness.  It seems like such a delicate plant but it can withstand a lot. My most recent experiment I started in November.  I devoted about 5 feet in length to a whole packet of mixed lettuce seeds.   I was overrrun by green arugula to the point that I couldn’t eat it anymore.. I thought that underneath I could see other lettuces trying to grow but they were overcome by the arugula.  It was big and grew so fast!  I felt gypped with my seeds.  One day.. I just flat pulled up all the arugula.  An amazing thing happened, all the lettuce that had been stunted and under the arugula.. took off!

Now that part of the garden is prolific with leaf lettuce, curly lettuce, red and green romaine lettuce. and a  beautiful red/green cabbage like plant that is two and a half feet tall and 3 feet in diameter. I don’t know what it is but is is downright ornamental.

garden lettuce...yumThe other half of the area, I plant with a “crop” of something.  Green Beans is a favorite and we harvested the last of  those in January.   Now, I’ve crowded in 6 broccoli plants that are doing great.  There’s also a tomato plant growing amidst the lettuce with a volunteer cantaloupe that came up right next to the tomato plant.  I had a pepper plant in there as well but it was terribly stunted by the arugula so I removed it and put is in the earth box where it could get some sun.  I water everything with my hydroponic solution and the experiment seems to work great.  There is always fresh lettuce, soon to be broccoli and the tomato and the cantaloupe are blooming.

The obsession part of it is I go out and just stare at everything at least 3 times per day.  I get teased a lot about this but, I just have to know.. is it too dry? Did the rain hurt anything? Omg.. there is frost on the neighbors yard.. is my garden okay?  I water I nurture and at dinner time, I pluck.

It’s just too amazing to miss.

Hot Tubs Uncategorized

What To Know When Buying a Hot Tub Cover or Spa Cover

Hot Tub Covers: The “Must Have” Hot Tub Accessory

Spa Covers are essential to maintain hot tub heat, keep out debris, and provide a safety layer to prevent children from unsupervised use.  When buying a new hot tub cover, you want to choose a cover that will be insulating, custom fitted and have strong  locking straps.    Today buying a hot tub cover involves a few options you will want to learn about and consider before placing your cover order.

In the past, the early hot tub covers were flat and 2 inches thick.  The huge problem with a flat spa cover is that if it is outside, it will suffer the weight of rain and snow, eventually sagging in the middle.  Once a hot tub cover is regularly in contact with the water on the inside of the hot tub the constant soaking is going to cause the styrofoam core to absorb water. Your cover becomes almost impossible to remove, even with a cover lifter. Heavy, falling apart spa covers are no fun. You may be replacing yours right now because that cover is waterlogged and  weighs a ton.  The good news is there have been many design improvements to try and solve the problem of water absorption and collapse.   Plus improvements in marine vinyl and UV inhibitors, have increased the life span of the outer vinyl skin of your hot tub cover as well.

These improvements have created more options so ordering a hot tub cover online or even with a dealer will involve making decisions on the thickness and taper of the cover as well as  the foam density.  Before you order, you might want to get familiar with these options so you can make a good buying decision based on your needs.  Your first job is measuring for your hot tub cover!

How To Measure Your Hot Tub for a NEW Cover

Start by choosing the shape of your hot tub below and following the measuring guidelines for each listed dimension.  Pay careful attention to your fold and where it folds. If you notice in the example below,  its the # 2 dimension that is bisected for the fold..  Click the image to view it larger.

octagon square round












How To Measure Radius Corners for Your Hot Tub or Spa Cover

Do you have radius corners?  The easiest way to measure a radius corner is with a carpenters square.  This is the technique:

radius measurement

To see how it looks in “real life”  here is an example of an 8 inch radius measured on the spa cover.measuring the radius

The following is some help in choosing from the available options for hot tub covers.

Choosing Thickness, Taper and Foam Density

Today, the best hot tub covers are tapered.  In fact, you typically have more than one choice on your spa cover’s taper.   In terms of cover price, usually the least expensive is the 4″ to 2″ taper.  Even the 4 to 2 is a big 5-to-3-spa-cover-taperimprovement over  flat!  Other popular tapers are the 5″ to 3″ and a REAL tough guy the 6 to 4. The widest part of the hot tub  cover’s taper is at the seam or hinge. This is always in the middle of the  tub and gives the hinge something to lean against:  it’s opposite on the other side.   The outside taper works great for water runoff.  Since the middle is essentially crowned,  water runs off instead of puddling.  The thicker tapers are great for outside hot tubs that may be subject to snow loads. The really good spa covers reinforce their high stress areas with a galvanized C channel for extra stability. Be sure the one you order has this important reinforcement.

Each of the spa cover tapers above have foam density options too.  Foam density is selected by pound of density.  The weight bearing aspects of the cover will change with higher foam densities. So does the R factor and  does the weight of the spa cover. The most common foam density choices  are 1lb, 1.5lb and 2lb.  The 1lb options is often your standard choice. The  1.5 foam density will notch up your options and price.  Price increases with foam density options.   Is foam density worth the extra money when buying a spa cover?   It depends on your family, your lifestyle and where you live.  If you experience bitter winters?  It is definitely worth the extra money for the extra strength and R factor.    If you live in warmer climates, you can probably get by with the 1 lb density on a 5 to three inch taper.  The 1.5 density is extra insurance.

Protecting the Styrofoam: How Much Do You Need?

The foam insert in a hot tub cover is subject to much abuse.  It is constantly bathed in steam laden with chemicals, varying pH levels and is very subject to absorbing water.  Wrapping the core with plastic wrap has been the answer to this old problem.  SpaCover manufacturers use clear plastic wraps to  protect the styrofoam.  This wrap should be heat sealed to be effective.  Some manufacturers offer the option of a double wrapped core.  This is double protection, and worth the extra bucks. Be sure that this wrap is at least 6 Mil thick!

Look for Quality Marine Vinyl and Colors

colorsMost manufacturers do not allow a choice of the grade of marine vinyl.   They choose their wares and colors and go from there.  All marine vinyl is not created equal however and you should look for covers made with marine vinyl in the 30 oz category.  UV inhibitors should also be a component of the vinyl from the cover maker you choose. Different vinyl companies will offer slightly different color choices. To the right you’ll see a pallet from one particular vinyl company.  As far as spa cover vinyl colors go, there are at least 12 different colors available, enough choices for any designer pallet!

Other Materials

sunbrella std colorsYes.. there are other choices for the skin of your foam cover.  A few manufacturers are offering “Sunbrella” brand marine canvas.  Sunbrella is a popular fabric used in outdoor furniture. It has a better, longer wear rating than vinyl.  If sun will be beating down on your cover, you might want to consider this option.  Even though the Sunbrella fabrics come in a plethora of colors,  manufacturers who offer it, only offer a few color choices.

Measuring The “Flaps” or “Skirt”

The part that hangs down from  the cover over your hot tub flange is called a flap or a skirt.  These should fit to the bottom of your hot tub  flange.  Make sure you take note of measuring instructions for the flaps.  Usually up to 6 inch is standard,  over 6 inches will incur an additional charge.

Sewing and Stitching The Hot Tub Cover

Sewing and Stitching is not equal from cover maker to cover maker and most do not offer options. It’s important that you take note that not all companies sew the same way! Since the stitch is what keeps the hot tub cover together, you want to know that your hot tub cover is well sewn.  Don’t buy a hot tub cover that is NOT triple stitched for strength in all of high stress areas: seam, handles, and locking straps.

Where Do You Want Your Locking Straps?strap locations

The locking straps should not be an “option”  They should be standard equipment.  Most manufacturers will have a standard location for them but can be  flexible where they are located.   It will probably be impossible to match up existing strap locations exactly.  But hardware is always included with the cover, and the receivers for the straps are very easy to install.  Here are potential choices for strap location.

Cover Lifters: Easy Help with Your Hot Tub Cover

You’ve got one right?  If you don’t, and it’s because you didn’t want to spend the money  know that the price has come down on basic cover lifters.  You can get them for 99 bucks now.  Some of the economy models however do not work with every shape hot tub.  If you have a rectangular hot tub you’re probably  safe with a 99 dollar one.  If you want more bells and whistles they certainly exist.  There are piston assisted cover lifters, sliders, folders, and cover lifters that can actually stow your cover.  Popular brands include  Covermate,  Cover Valet, Cover Rockit, and the Cover Caddy.  They definitely make life easier and protect the cover itself from the stress of dragging, flopping it open and dropping it.

Does Your Hot Tub Have a Waterfall or  Speakers?

If you have a raised waterfall or popup speakers on your hot tub, there will be additional charges to accommodate them, and they must be accommodated. If you don’t include them on your spa cover  order, your cover will not fit, so it is essential they are noted on the spa cover order.

A Word About Shipping and Receiving Your Spa Covertruck delivery

Listen up because this is IMPORTANT!  Shipping you your spa  cover is a very significant cost of your cover order.  Even if freight is “FREE”  It isn’t free to the manufacturer. They’ve merely covered the cost when pricing the cover, sometimes at a loss of actual shipping charges.  What you need to keep in mind is that when the trucking company receives the spa cover and pick it up, they sign that there is no damage.  This means that IF your cover has visible damage when it is received, the trucking company is the responsible party.  If there is any damage to the box or the cover within you MUST refuse the shipment.  It is the only way the manufacturer can get reimbursement for the damage.  Because of this, it is very important you are available to receive your spa cover yourself and inspect it immediately for damage.  Spa covers are delivered by common carrier.  They are too big for  UPS or FedEx.   Don’t take a chance of having the trucking company deliver without your presence.  The manufacturer cannot accept claims for damage for which they are not responsible!

Investment in a New Hot Tub Cover Will Pay Off

Getting a new hot tub cover will make your life a lot easier. You’ll save money on electricity and perhaps will use your hot tub even more.   A heavy cover is no fun to deal with.  Considering that many folks use their hot tubs for hydro therapy and rehabilitation, the last thing you want to have to do is wrestle with your hot tub cover. You’ll get a lot more benefits from your hot tub if you actually use it instead of thinking that you just don’t want to go out and take the cover off!

Yes, a good hot tub cover is an investment. You’ll be spending between 250 (bare bones) and perhaps 400.00 for your cover.    But nothing rejuvenates a hot tub more than a new spa cover in one of  14 colors!  With the changes in design and advance planning of available cover options, plus understanding and selecting the right options for your needs,  you’ll find that the new advances in spa  covers will pay off and  last longer under the same conditions.   Warranties for spa covers are now in the neighborhood of 5 years.  That speaks loudly to the change in quality.   As always,  cover abuse, will reduce the life of your hot tub cover.   They are not designed to bear the weight of humans, or dogs, or horses, or llamas and the warranty does not extend to problems created by overweight conditions of snow load.  Remember, warranties are for defects in materials or workmanship, not for a German Shepard chasing a cat across your spa cover.

Where To Buy a Great Spa Cover?get help here

There is really not any one place, there is not just one spa cover manufacturer that makes a quality hot tub cover.   As you search, just keep in mind what you learned  about the options and other aspects of ordering. You can also check with  HydroPro Sales Inc who will help you find the right cover manufacturer that builds custom covers with the above criteria.  They represent a number of manufacturers and make sure you get the best quality and the best shipping rate for your spa cover.  Even though many online companies say “free shipping”  the shipping cost is always added into the price and is a considerable portion of the cover cost.   The folks at HydroPro make sure you are A)  getting a cover from a good quality company and B) that you are getting it with the best freight rate for your area. They mainly perform this service for hot tub dealers, but they will help individuals as well.  Visit them at

Want more info? Just fill out our form here and we’ll get back to you with answers!


[contact-form-7 id=”49715″ title=”Contact form 1″]