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Back In the Garden How to guarantee your garden gets off on the right foot



Restoring Your Real Estate

Bringing dead grass back to life

The right watering can make all the difference in a lush lawn

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Owatonna greenhouse, nursery owners



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

encourage patience to local gardeners this spring By ASHLEY STEWART

OWATONNA — This winter presented Steele Countians, and all Minnesota, with more than their share of below-zero temperature days with snow and wind. In a word: Brrrrrrr. And although the winter has been considered extreme, local greenhouse and nursery owners say snow has been a good thing for area gardeners. “The snow is like a blanket for plants in the winter,” said Bill Souba, owner of Souba Greenhouse and Garden Center. Without that blanket, this year’s gardening season for perennial growers may have been more difficult. “We haven’t seen a winter this bad or this extreme in a long time,” said Eric Cornell, owner of Turtle Creek Nursery and Landscape in Owatonna. “But if we had a lack of snow with these severe temperatures, it could have been a lot worse.” See GREENHOUSE 3

Debbie Moore transfers plants from one area of Souba Greenhouse and Garden Center to another in preparation for wholesale and retail sale season later this month. (Ashley Stewart/People’s Press)

Home, Lawn & Garden 2014

A special project of the Owatonna People’s Press 135 W. Pearl St., Owatonna, MN 55060 Publisher: Ron Ensley Managing Editor: Jeffrey Jackson Advertising Director: Debbie Ensley Media Specialists: Betty Frost, Beth Barrett, Rachel Ebbers, Diane Gengler, Aaron Louks, David Weeks Ad Design: Nikkie Gilmore, Keeley Krebsbach, Jenine Kubista, Kelly Kubista, Paul Ristau Cover Design: Keeley Krebsbach Home, Lawn & Garden 2014 is distributed to subscribers and readers of The Owatonna People’s Press at no additional charge. All advertising contained herein is the responsibility of the advertisers. Use of material without written consent of publisher is prohibited. All rights reserved. ©2014


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Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Greenhouse: It’s too early for


Eric Cornell, left, owner of Turtle Creek Nursery and Landscaping, and Doris Poehler load a wagon full of plants Monday morning to transport to the greenhouse in preparation for open house this weekend. (Ashley Stewart/People’s Press) Debi Souba, co-owner of Souba Greenhouse and Garden Center with her husband, Bill, waters plants in the greenhouse Friday. Souba said it takes hours to water the thousands of plants. (Ashley Stewart/People’s Press)

gardeners to be out gardening From 2 Souba said when there isn’t snow cover during severe cold temperatures it reduces the temperature of the soil and increases plants’ chances of dying. “Some perennials might not survive that,” he said. Even though the calendar says it is spring, Cornell said it’s still too early to know all the impacts the winter has had until the ground firms up and plants emerge. “As things start to pop out, people can see if they have any winter loss, and if they do, then they will have time to replant and be able to treat it like any other year,” he said. Cornell said people might see snow mold, which is caused by heavy snow, as the snow has melted and the grass greens. “That might mean people have to do some reseeding in those patchy areas,” he said. But Cornell and Souba said it’s too early for gardeners to be out gardening now as the ground hasn’t firmed up completely. “It’s still a tad early,” Cornell said. “If people go out there now, it will do more damage than good, and they will have to do more reseeding.” Cornell and Souba agreed that patience is the key for home gardeners this spring. “Be patient and plan,” Cornell said. “I encourage people to get out to a garden center to get the ball rolling about what they want and get that

though process going. You don’t want to get too ahead of the game.” Souba said if gardeners don’t wait, they will plant seeds in lumpy soil, and that isn’t good for growing plants. “You want nice soft soil to surround the seed,” he said. “It’s too early right now.” Cornell has also seen people raking their lawns, and he said it’s too early for that, too. “The ground isn’t firm enough, so people are ripping up their grass, and they may have to replant seeds because of that,” he said. Cornell said usually people are in their gardens by mid-April, but this year, weather has delayed that. “We’re a little behind,” Cornell said. “It’s not just because of the winter, but because of spring. We haven’t had too many warm days in April.” But he said gardeners shouldn’t be concerned. “Things are OK so far. I think there may be a few problems, but it won’t be as drastic as people think,” Cornell said. Cornell and Souba anticipate people will be in their gardens by the end of April, early May. “Once we get some good weather, the ground will firm up, and plants will start to emerge after being dormant for six months,” Cornell said. “But the key now is to be patient and plan.” Reach reporter Ashley Stewart at 444-2378 or follow her on @OPPashley

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

cats and dogs do not relieve themselves nearby. Decide what to plant When deciding what to plant, consider what you eat and how much produce the household consumes, then choose vegetables that fit with your diet. Some vegetables, like peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and squash, produce throughout the season. Others, such as carrots and corn, produce one crop and then expire. Plan accordingly when you purchase plants or seeds, as you want enough food but not so much that it will go to waste. Choose three to four different vegetables and plant them in the garden. Select varieties that require similar soil conditions, so that you can adjust the pH and mix of the soil accordingly. This will serve as good practice, particularly the first year of lanting a garden can add Expansion is always a possibility down your garden. After you have mastered the basics, you can branch out into aesthetic appeal and functionality the road. other produce. to a property. Vegetable gardens Choose a location Know when to plant can transform landscapes while Spend some time examining your putting healthy and homegrown food Many of the foods grown in vegetable landscape. Vegetables generally need on the table. By growing their own gardens, including tomatoes and ample warmth and sunlight to thrive, so fruits and vegetables, homeowners find an area of the yard that gets several have total control over what foods hours of direct sunlight per day. can be harvested, and they can ensure A sunny spot is good, but you also sustainable, safe practices are used to want a location with adequate drainage care for the plants. Vegetable gardens can be compact or so your garden does not succumb to flooding or fungus during and after expansive, depending on how much space is available to cultivate. However, heavy downpours. Don’t place the first-time gardeners may want to begin garden too close to rain gutters or near a pool, where splash-out may occur. small so they can hone their skills and Select a location that is isolated from experiment to see which plants are pets so the plants are not trampled and most likely to thrive in their gardens.

Improve your home & diet with a vegetable garden


peppers, are summer vegetables, which means they reach peak ripeness after the height of the summer season. Pumpkins, brussel sprouts and peas are planted to be harvested later on. These plants may be put in the ground a little later than others. It is less expensive to start seedlings indoors and then transplant them to a garden when the time comes. Seeds can be started three to four weeks before they would be put outdoors. Many vegetables are planted outside in April or May, but definitely after frost conditions have waned. Read seed packets to know exactly when to plant or consult with the nursery where you purchased established seedlings. You also can visit The Garden Helper at to find out when to plant, seed depth and how long it takes plants to reach maturity. Vegetable gardens can become central components of outdoor home landscapes. Not only do gardens add aesthetic appeal, but also they produce fresh fruits and vegetables to enjoy throughout the season.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014



your garden starts off on the right foot


s winter slowly winds down, many gardeners cannot wait to soak up the springtime sun and get their hands dirty in the garden. Such excitement is not just good for gardeners, but can benefit the garden in the months to come as well. Late winter or early spring is a great time to get a head start on the gardening season. Even if gardening season is still around the corner, completing the following projects can ensure your garden gets off on the right foot. Clear debris One of the best things you can do for your garden as winter winds down is to

clear it of debris. Winter can be especially harsh on a landscape, and gardens left to the elements are often filled with debris once spring arrives. Dead leaves, fallen branches, rocks that surfaced during the winter frost, and even garbage that might have blown about in winter winds can all pile up in a garden over a typical winter. Clearing such debris likely won’t take long, but it’s a great first step toward restoring the garden before the time comes to plant and grow the garden once again. Examine the soil Soil plays a significant role in whether a garden thrives or struggles. Examining


the soil before the season starts can help gardeners address any issues before they plant. Ignoring the soil until a problem arises can turn the upcoming gardening season into a lost opportunity, so test the soil to determine if it has any nutrient or mineral deficiencies. This may require the help of a professional, but if a problem arises, you might be able to adjust the acidity or alkalinity of the soil and still enjoy a successful gardening season. Another way to examine the soil is less complex but can shed light on when would be a good time to get back to work. Reach into the soil and dig out a handful. If the soil quickly crumbles, you can start preparing for gardening seasoning. But if the soil is still clumped together, it needs more time to dry out before you can begin your prep work. Initiate edging Edging is another task gardeners can begin as they get ready for the season. Edge plant and flower beds, but be sure to use a spade with a flat blade or an edger designed to edge flower beds. Such tools will cut deep enough so grass roots that may eventually grow into the flower

bed are severed. Depending on how large a garden is, edging can be a timeconsuming task, so getting a head start allows homeowners to spend more time planting and tending to their gardens once the season hits full swing. Fight weeds Though weeds likely have not survived the winter, that does not mean they won’t return once the weather starts to heat up. But as inevitable as weeds may seem, homeowners can take steps to prevent them from turning beautiful gardens into battlegrounds where plants, flowers and vegetables are pitted against unsightly and potentially harmful weeds. Spring is a good time to apply a pre-emergent weed preventer, which can stop weeds before they grow. Though such solutions are not always foolproof, they can drastically reduce the likelihood of weed growth. Though gardeners might not be able to start planting their gardens in late winter or early spring, they can still get outside and take steps to ensure their gardens thrive once planting season begins.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

your garden

These animals may help


lanning and maintaining a garden requires a lot of effort, which can result in an aesthetically pleasing addition to the landscape. But that hard work can also fall victim to nature when local wildlife find a garden too mouth-watering to resist. In an effort to rid a garden of unwanted pests, gardeners may unwittingly scare away animals and insects that might just protect the garden from more ill-intentioned animals. Not every creature that scurries is out to get prized petunias or to devour tomatoes. In fact, many can prove beneficial to gardens. Bats Bats have a bad reputation, as people unnecessarily fear bats because they believe them to be carriers of disease. But many bats feed off of insects or fruits and will not harm a human. The average brown bat can eat 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour, so it’s easy to see why bats are good to have around. Mosquitoes are not only a nuisance but also harbor potentially dangerous diseases. Bats also may

eat certain rodents, which can cut down on the number of animals burrowing in a yard. Frogs Frogs and toads will prey on insects and make the local insect population more manageable. Toads eat mainly slugs, who feed on the leaves and fruits of many plants. Frogs and toads are attracted to water, so including a pond or another water feature in the garden will provide them with a habitat they like. Birds While it is true that some birds can damage crops, many birds are content to feed on insects attracted to the garden, which helps to keep insect numbers in check. Chickadees, for example, will dine on aphid eggs, while larger birds may prey on mice or other rodents or simply scare them out of the garden. Jays and mockingbirds are known to be feisty and can even deter dogs and cats from a yard. Hummingbirds will sip on the nectar of flowers and help pollinate plants. Snakes

Snakes in a garden can be disconcerting to some people, but snakes are ideal predators who feed on insects and rodents several times their size. Snakes are the right size and shape to invade the burrows of pest animals. Butterflies and bees Butterflies and bees are responsible for pollinating the vast majority of plants. Avoid using pesticides that may diminish butterfly or bee populations. A beehive right next to a garden may not be practical, but don’t make attempts to destroy it. Consult with a professional beekeeper to see what can be done to move the beehive without destroying it.

Many animals and insects can be detrimental to the health of a garden. However, several animals are handy to have around and should be welcomed to the landscape.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014


PAGE 7 Groundhogs feed on plants, frustrating homeowners who want to keep the critters off of their properties.

rid your yard of pesky pests


pring is the season when lawn and garden equipment is dusted off, windows are washed and homes are aired out. Spring also is a great time to get started on lawn and garden projects. Early spring might not be warm enough to start planting, but it is a great time to inspect a yard for any property damage or problems, including pests. Small animals like groundhogs can compromise lawn and garden projects. For example, vegetable gardens are prime targets for such pests, while trees and shrubbery offer cozy abodes and camouflage from other predators. Homeowners can grow frustrated by the damage such critters can do to their properties. But identifying the offenders early on can minimize that damage. Groundhogs Groundhogs are one of 14 species of marmots and are the largest members of the squirrel family. They frequent the areas where woodlands meet open spaces, like streams, roads or fields. Groundhogs feed on grass, plants, fruit and tree bark. They also will feast on home gardens during the summer and fall seasons. Groundhogs are most active during the warm months, when they forage and feast to build up large reserves for winter hibernation. Humane methods of keeping groundhogs at bay include making the area inhospitable. Groundhogs can climb trees and fencing, but they’re less likely to get into plants if there is a fence around them. Dogs can be preventive as well, as some dogs will chase groundhogs off of the property. The scent of urine can also scare groundhogs off. Using traps to

capture and then relocate groundhogs is another option. Moles Moles are cylindrical mammals that are most comfortable living a subterranean lifestyle. The fur of moles feels similar to velvet, and they have small ears and eyes. Moles also have strong forelimbs with forepaws that have an extra thumb and multiple joints. These help them to burrow underground effectively and hollow out subterranean chambers. The diet of moles is primarily earthworms and small invertebrates found in the soil. The runs they create beneath the surface of the soil are used to trap prey and store it in “larders” for later. Moles are not harmful to lawns and gardens, but they can compromise the aesthetic appeal of lawns and gardens. That is why homeowners often want to prevent moles from making homes on their property. While there are traps and poisons available, one of the easiest ways to prevent mole infestation is to remove their sources of food. Homeowners also can cut back on watering property and get rid of grubs and other insects. Also, consider installing a mole barrier of aluminum sheeting or hardware cloth by burying these materials between two and three feet deep along the perimeter of a lawn or garden.

Cats are natural enemies of moles, so sprinkling cat litter around mole runs may dissuade moles from visiting the area. Voles Often mistaken for mice, voles are small rodents with shorter, hairier

tails and more stout bodies than mice. Voles are commonly referred to as meadow or field mice, and they feed on small plants and will eat nuts, fruits and even dead animals. Voles will frequently eat succulent root systems and burrow under lawns and gardens. The runways of voles will be shallow, so they aren’t prevalent in frequently cultivated soils. They are also less likely to burrow beneath frequently mowed lawns. Voles do not like open areas. Remove protection like weeds, tall grass, dense vegetation, and heavy mulch to make a yard a less popular habitat. Keep grass adjacent to flower beds or gardens mowed short. If groundhogs, moles and voles become particularly troublesome or infest a yard in great numbers, an exterminator may be needed

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any adults understand the joy of gardening, but gardening can be equally fun for children as well. While some adults may feel that certain children do not have the patience or perseverance to see plants grow from seeds to adulthood, selecting plants that are hardy and sprout quickly may be the key to igniting a love of gardening in children. Choosing seeds that sprout quickly can hold the attention of children who are new to gardening. Many different plants fit this bill. Beans, peas, sunflower seeds, and bell pepper seeds are easy to start and germinate quickly. In addition, many leafy vegetables, such as chard, lettuce, spinach, and mustard, germinate in three to five days. Herbs, such as basil and parsley, also sprout fast. All of these plants are good options for introducing children to gardening, as each provides quick gratification. To further interest children, it is a good idea to plant seeds in a way that allows youngsters to monitor the progress of growth. Use a transparent container, such as rinsed-out glass jars and canisters, to house the plant. Such containers give kids an unobstructed view of the process, during which children can plot the progress of seed germination and easily spot root and stem development. Once the seedlings grow larger, they can be transplanted into different containers. Many seedlings can sprout with water alone. Children can easily grow new plants from clippings of a mature plant left resting in a shallow cup of water, and seeds may not even need



any flowers compete with one another to attract butterflies, birds and bees for pollination, but at least two species of flowering plants have enhanced their ability to attract insects in unique ways. The titan arum (Amorphophallus titanium) is native to western Sumatra, where it grows in openings in rainforests. It is the largest unbranched flower in the world and can reach up to 15 feet tall. But this alone is not what makes the titan arum so special. It is unwise to step in close to get a whiff of this enormous bloom, as the plant gives off a rancid odor reminiscent of rotting meat. It is sometimes known as the carrion plant or the corpse plant for this reason. The plant has created this scent to attract flies for pollination. The rafflesia, which is native to southeastern Asia as well, is another plant that produces a rotting aroma to attract insects. The rafflesia has no stems, leaves or true roots — it’s basically one large flower.

Amorphophallus Titanium


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

soil to germinate. Kids may have luck sprinkling seeds on a dampened, crumpled-up piece of paper towel. Cotton balls also make a good place to nestle seeds. Either material will hold on to water, keeping the seeds moist until they sprout. Afterward, the seedlings can be carefully moved into a soiland-compost mix. The paper towel and the cotton balls will decompose and add to the organic matter already in the soil. Edible plants often make good choices for children because kids can reap the rewards of their efforts. Herbs can be sprinkled onto food, or fruits and vegetables can be grown in containers and then served at mealtime. Kids can show pride in their accomplishments, especially if they have tangible results on the dinner plate. Children who want to try something different can explore other types of plants. Aquatic plants, or those found at the pet store to grow in aquariums, can be easy to grow. They need little more than a container, fresh water and sunlight. Cacti and other succulents are also fun to explore. These plants are quite hardy in that they can stand up to moderate abuse, such as failure to water frequently enough. The unique appearance of cacti make them interesting focal points for an indoor garden. A love of gardening that’s fostered inside can also be explored outdoors. Set aside a plot of dirt where kids can sow their own seeds and tend to their own gardens. This hobby can help children learn patience and hard work while fostering an appreciation of nature.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014



an option in drought-heavy areas C Low-water garden plants

oping with drought is a way of life for many people across North America. The National Climatic Data Center, a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, works cooperatively with Canada and Mexico to monitor climate and drought conditions across the continent. According to the NOAA, the globally-averaged temperature for 2013 tied as the fourth warmest year since 1880, when record-keeping began. 2013 also marked the 37th consecutive year with a global temperature above the 20th century average. Warm temperatures, when paired with below-average precipitation, can quickly escalate and cause drought, making things difficult for those who make their livelihood by working the land or even just weekend gardeners. Low-water garden plants are a smart choice for those who live in areas that often deal with drought. These resilient plants can keep gardens looking lush and beautiful regardless of water restrictions. In fact, low-water gardening has become a popular trend among eco-conscious gardeners and even is a cost-saving measure for homeowners. Establishing a garden of

drought-tolerant plants requires knowledge of hardiness zones and which plants will thrive in certain areas. Native plants, in general, will be more tolerant to fluctuations in weather than plants that are imported. Contact a garden center and speak with someone knowledgeable about plants that will do well in lowwater conditions. In addition, choose plants that have a reputation for drought resistance. Butterfly bush is very hardy and requires little water. Although it is considered an invasive plant in some areas, gardeners who keep

on top of seedlings and off-shoots can keep the plant in control. This shrub will create an enormous amount of flowers that will appear in the spring and will continue to bloom throughout the summer. The butterfly bush also attracts scores of butterflies to a landscape. Pink evening primrose is full of delicate, pink flowers that spread on runners. It prefers dry soils, and even though it can thrive when soil quality is poor, it cannot tolerate soil that is too wet. It can grow in USDA zones five to nine. A variety of sage plants, including white sage, black sage and Cleveland sage, are droughttolerant and do well in climates like Southern California’s. These plants produce blooms that attract insects and birds alike.

Gardeners who would like relatively low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants can opt for succulents. Succulents, which include aloe, cacti and jade, are characterized by thick, fleshy water-storage organs. Succulents prefer bright light and can thrive in south-facing conditions. It’s good to concentrate the most amount of watering for succulents during the spring growing season. Keep soil well-drained to avoid damage to shallow roots. Heed landscape conditions when selecting plants for the garden. Drought-tolerant plants are a good idea in those regions where weather is naturally arid or if homeowners prefer plants that can grow regardless of seasonal water restrictions.


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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

keep cats out of your garden beds


ats make for wonderful pets, especially those that are content with life indoors, where they can spend hours lounging on a windowsill watching the world go by. But some cats spend a significant amount of time outdoors, where they forage for food and take refuge in and around a neighborhood. Frequently, outdoor cats will return to the same place over and over again. If that place is your flower bed, you may grow aggravated by your uninvited guest. Once a cat has found a place to call its own, it can be difficult to persuade the animal to move. Cats can be attracted to planting beds because the soil is soft underfoot and may seem like the ideal environment to turn into an outdoor litter box. However, over time cat urine and feces can leave behind an offensive odor and damage plants. Other cats also may be attracted to the garden, creating territory “wars” or even more odor and activity. But homeowners can employ a variety of techniques to keep felines from digging in the garden. • Keep leftover citrus peels. Orange, lemon and lime peels scattered around the garden may be offensive to cats, who will likely opt to go elsewhere

rather than ignore the odor. Over time, the peels can be removed or allowed to break down into a natural fertilizer. • Employ technology to surprise or startle the cats. Motion detectors that trigger lights or a sprinkler system can startle cats and keep them away from your garden. • Make the garden uncomfortable to cats. Many cats do not like the feeling hard materials under their paws. Therefore, you can bury any number of items in the soil to deter padded feet. Some gardeners prefer to use chicken wire or rolled mesh around plants before covering the soil with mulch. The cats step on the dirt and feel the metal underneath, then move on. Branches, brambles, spiky holly leaves, or even rocks may keep cats from finding the garden bed hospitable. • Employ natural scented deterrents. Some say that cats will be repelled by human hair. Visit a salon and ask for hair clippings to distribute throughout the garden. Urine from predators, like coyotes, may scare cats off, as well. Some cats may not like the smell of marigolds, which can be planted alongside other flowers in an

attempt to keep cats at bay. • Erect barriers around the garden. Barriers can keep cats out of gardens. Erect a fence of lattice or metal to make it more difficult for cats to get inside the garden. • Make other areas of your property more attractive to cats.

Homeowners who don’t mind the presence of cats on their property but want them out of the garden can take the unusual step of making another area on the property more cat-friendly. Plant catnip far away from the garden, giving cats a place to hang out without putting your garden in jeopardy.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

for beginners Fertilizing


ertilizing a lawn is a springtime tradition for many homeowners. Winter can take its toll on a lawn, but fertilizer can go a long way toward helping a lawn recover from harsh weather. While lawn-and-garden enthusiasts might know the ins and outs of fertilizing a lawn, novices might need a little help as they look to restore their lawns. • Find out what your lawn needs. Even novice green thumbers likely know that overfertilization can harm a lawn, and that’s a big reason many homeowners approach fertilizing their lawn with some trepidation. A lush lawn adds to the curb appeal of a home, while a lawn that’s patchy or appears to be poorly taken care of can lower property value. Before fertilizing a lawn, homeowners should determine the needs of their lawns. A soil test can determine if the lawn has any nutrient deficiencies. • Don’t overdo it with nitrogen. Fertilizing with too much nitrogen is a common mistake, as too much nitrogen can be harmful, decreasing root growth and increasing a lawn’s susceptibility to disease. A slow-release fertilizer may be an option, as such fertilizers break down nutrients over a longer period of time, which also allows homeowners to extend the intervals between fertilizing sessions. But a lawn can get nitrogen from other sources as well. Such sources include grass clippings or raked leaves left on the lawn after being shredded by a mulching mower. • Consider using granules instead of spray. Spraying a lawn with fertilizer might seem like the easiest and quickest way to fertilize, but spraying is typically best left to the professionals. That’s because novices often struggle to evenly apply the fertilizer when spraying, and many do not account for the wind when spraying fertilizer. A traditional spreader that fertilizes a lawn with granules makes it easier for nonprofessionals to apply the fertilizer accurately and evenly. Before fertilizing with granules, read the package to determine if you need to water the lawn before application, as some fertilizers are only effective when applied to a lawn after it has been watered. Also, be sure to fill the spreader on asphalt instead of the lawn. Chances are you’re going to spill granules when filling the spreader, and such spills can be harmful to the lawn. • Plan to fertilize several times. Some homeowners only fertilize twice a year, once in the spring and then once again in the fall. But fertilizer should be applied multiple times throughout the year, beginning in the early spring. The first time to fertilize is when the soil temperature reaches roughly 55 F, which is often evident because grass typically starts to grow again when the soil reaches that temperature. Fertilize again roughly a month after fertilizer is first applied, and then do so every six to eight weeks after through October. Professionals often recommend using an organic material during the third fertilizing session.

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and minerals


awn and garden enthusiasts know a handful of items are essential to maintain a healthy landscape. Water, sunshine and the proper nutrients all work in concert to promote a healthy lawn. Although nutritional material is inherent in the soil, many gardeners feel soil must be amended with some sort of fertilizer to give plants a healthy boost. All-natural fertilizers are growing in popularity, and home gardeners have a variety of such products at their disposal. Ambitious homeowners can even create their own all-natural fertilizers from items around the house. Organic fertilizers, or those that are derived from living organisms and not manufacturered through chemicals, can provide sufficient nutrients and minerals to grow healthy plants. Bone meal In order to store energy and reach maturity, plants need phosphate. This mineral is released over a long period of time from finely ground rock. However, a faster way to supply it to the landscape is through bone meal. Bone meal is a mixture of finely and coarsely ground animal bones that are a waste product from meat-processing plants. Adding bone meal to soil is one of the most effective ways to increase phosphorous levels. Manure The waste from herbivores (animals that feed on grass), including rabbits, horses and cows, can make super fertilizers. Some gardeners shy away from manure because they believe it to be an odoriferous, dirty product. The best produced manures are allowed to compost for at least nine months and are mixed with hay or straw. They should not produce an offensive odor and will provide plants with a host of nutrients. Never use manures from meat-

eating animals, like dogs, cats or humans. Feces can harbor a lot of bacteria, which can be transfered to the garden soil. Fish and seaweed Improving soil nutrients may be as simple as looking to the ocean or other bodies of water. Fish emulsion, a mixture of ground fish and water, is a good nitrogen source. Nitrogen gives plants the energy to grow. Seaweed, which is actually a type of algae, contains the primary nutrients that plants need in order to thrive, including phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium. It also serves as a food for natural bacteria that break down nutrients into the soil, making them easier for plants to absorb. Worms Earthworms are vital to soil health. They burrow and wiggle

around in the dirt, helping to aerate the soil. But the castings, or waste, of the worms also provide valuable nutrients to the soil. The castings contain beneficial microorganisms from the worms’ digestive system that help break down organic matter into a form that plant roots can use. Many gardeners participate in vermicomposting, or farming worms in order to use their castings as fertilizer. Compost Compost can also be used as fertilizer. Gardeners can make their own compost from discarded materials. Compost is one of the most widely used

soil amendments in vegetable gardens. Yard refuse, fruit and vegetable peelings, eggshells, coffee grounds, and other items can be added to a compost pile. Natural bacteria will slowly break down these materials into a product dubbed “black gold.” Compost can be mixed into soil before planting and used as a dressing after plants have been established. Gardeners can experiment with different ratios of fertilizer to create a mix that enhances the soil. Test the soil to determine which, if any, nutrients the soil is lacking so the fertilizer can be adjusted accordingly.

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Weed out gardening myths


from facts


ardening is an age-old activity that was once a necessity but has transformed into a hobby for thousands of people. While gardening still serves practical purposes, many gardeners still consider it a hobby first and foremost. Time-tested gardening techniques have prevailed, but there remain certain myths about gardening that are best dispelled. The following are some of the more common myths associated with gardening. MYTH: Compost tea is more effective than traditional compost. All over North America and the United Kingdom, gardeners have jumped on board the compost tea bandwagon. Compost tea is a fertilizer created by steeping compost in water mixed with sugar in brewing kits. The mixture is allowed to sit and aerate to encourage beneficial organism growth before it is sprayed on plants. According to supporters, compost tea suppresses disease and boosts plant yields. However, there is no evidence to suggest that compost tea works any better than adding compost in its normal state to the soil. In fact, leaving buckets of the “tea” around to ferment could actually create a breeding ground for E coli and other bacteria. MYTH: Plants under stress should be fertilized. This is not the case. Horticulturists advise that

Simple ways to


fertilizing plants that are not deficient in nutrients can actually add to existing stress levels for plants. Plants are not often stressed by a lack of food, but rather heat, faulty planting or space constraints. A fed plant will use the energy to absorb the nutrients instead of defending against a blight or establishing better root systems. MYTH: Young trees need stakes. It may be tempting to stake that little sapling to protect it against the weather and strong winds, but doing so may actually work against the foundling tree. Staking trees to inhibit swaying may not stimulate the tree to grow thicker, lower trunks that will help the tree in the long run. The Royal Horticultural Society recommends that saplings be staked for around one year and then have the stakes removed to encourage the tree to be strong and stable on its own. MYTH: Water droplets and sunshine lead to burnt leaves. Gardeners have been told to resist watering their plants during the hottest times of the day. Many assume it’s because water droplets lying on leaves will magnify the sun’s rays and burn the leaves. According to Dr. Gabor Horvath at the Eötvös University in Budapest, water droplets will rarely damage plants because the drops are too close to the leaves to cause burning before they evaporate. Watering during the

limit weed growth


eed growth in a garden cannot only prove unsightly, but also ultimately harmful to plants and vegetables. When weeds appear in a garden, they have already begun to steal nutrients and water from surrounding plants, and if allowed to grow tall, they can also block sunlight from reaching the plants. Unfortunately, weeds can be resilient, and there is no way to guarantee they won’t grow. But gardeners can take several steps to limit the growth of weeds so the plants in their gardens can grow strong. • Work the soil regularly. When weed roots are removed from the soil, weeds die. But just because you hoed or tilled the soil last month does not mean new weeds won’t grow in and start robbing your plants of essential nutrients and minerals this month. The garden should be cultivated regularly, and you should pay particular attention to the soil after the garden has been watered. If weeds are allowed to go to seed, the garden can quickly be overwhelmed by them, as young weeds tend to grow in quickly and a little water might be all they need to sprout. So make a point to routinely cultivate the soil with a hoe or tiller, being careful when working on soil around growing plants. • Lay down black plastic. Some gardeners may want to avoid laying black plastic down in their gardens for fear that such a weed deterrent robs the garden of its natural beauty. While that might be true, the black plastic also robs many weeds of their ability to grow in. Some weeds may be

especially stubborn and grow in under the plastic, forcing their way through the holes cut into the plastic for the plants to grow through. But laying black plastic covering over the garden before it’s planted is often an effective way to limit weed growth. • Lay mulch in vegetable gardens. Mulch can serve multiple benefits in a garden. Many people find mulch aesthetically appealing, but mulch serves more practical purposes as well. Mulch made of organic materials, such as bark chips or grass clippings, is often too heavy for weeds to push through, making it difficult, if not impossible, for weeds to sprout in the garden. But mulch also conserves moisture in the soil, strengthening plant roots as a result. Stronger roots can lead to a healthier garden. • Cut down on plants’ elbow room. The more space between plants, the more room weeds have to grow. So decreasing the space between plants can limit weed growth. But spacing plants too closely together can make it difficult for vegetables to grow in as well. Spacing recommendations will likely be included on packaging when buying seeds, but reducing those recommendations by an inch or two may allow the plants to grow in strong while limiting weed growth at the same time. Garden weeds can put plants in jeopardy and rob gardens of their beauty. But there are a handful of ways gardeners can limit weed growth without harming their plants.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

hottest points of the day is not advised because water evaporates and gets wasted. MYTH: Sand added to clay soil makes it looser and better for plants. Clay soil is a deterrent to gardening because it can be so hard to dig and difficult to cultivate, but some feel it’s best to add sand to the clay to make it a better soil mixture. You would need a great deal of sand to do this in the right manner, but many gardeners simply dig a hole, add sand and hope for the best. However, water runoff will pool in the sand and not be absorbed by the clay, potentially causing the plants to drown. MYTH: Adding compost or potting soil to the planting hole for a tree or shrub is beneficial. Gardeners frequently add compost or potting soil to the hole where the root ball of a tree or shrub will

be placed. But this encourages the roots to grow only in this nutrient-rich area, rather than spreading throughout the landscape to form a stronger and more durable root system. If you are going to amend the soil, do so evenly across the landscape. MYTH: Use gravel or rocks in the bottom of planting containers to improve drainage. Rocks and gravel can actually impede the growth of plants and take away space for roots to grow. The drainage may be affected as well, as water will sit above the gravel or stones and saturate the roots. Stick with plain soil for better drainage results. A variety of gardening myths still prevail. Over time, behaviors can be changed if gardeners learn to separate myths from facts.


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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

lush lawn



The right watering can make all the difference in a


roper watering is essential when trying to restore or maintain a lush green lawn. If watered incorrectly, a lawn can be susceptible to a host of problems, including insect infestation, weak roots and disease. When watering a lawn, especially when temperatures start to soar in the summer, it’s easy to think a lawn needs more water and needs it during those hours of the day when the sun is at its most intense. However, those are two common misconceptions about watering. The following are a handful of tips for homeowners who want to help their lawns endure the summer heat and maintain their lush appeal into the fall. • Water when temperatures are mild. In the summertime, humans typically need water when temperatures are at their most extreme, but that does not mean lawns should be watered when temperatures soar. Water attracts the sun, so watering when temperatures are at their hottest, which is typically around midday and into early

Homeowners with especially large trees on their property should consider hand watering the grass beneath such trees to ensure these areas receive adequate water. • Lean on mulch. Homeowners tend to fear drought for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that drought can cause a green lawn to afternoon, will likely lead to brown spots indicative turn brown, potentially affecting property value of a burned lawn. That’s because the sun will be and robbing a landscape of its beauty. But there drawn to the water, bearing down on the lawn are ways to help the soil retain moisture when and burning the grass as a result. When summer temperatures are especially hot and dry. Mulch arrives, a lawn is best watered when temperatures around trees, flower beds, gardens and shrubs are at their most mild. That often translates to can help homeowners get the most bang for their early morning or early evening. An added benefit watering buck. That’s because mulch retains of watering when temperatures are on the mild moisture, even when temperatures are especially side is less water will be lost to evaporation during hot. This helps foster stronger root growth and this time, meaning you won’t be wasting water. healthier landscapes that are less susceptible to disease and insect infestation. • Situate sprinklers to conserve water. Homeowners who won’t be hand watering • Get to know your lawn. Several variables their lawns should make sure their sprinklers combine to determine how much water a lawn are placed properly throughout their property. needs. Understanding these variables helps Situate sprinklers so they aren’t watering homeowners understand how much to water driveways, walkways or patios. All of the water their own lawns. Local climate is a variable to should be going to the grass, especially when consider, as is whether or not a lawn was fertilized drought restrictions are in place and the amount (experts typically recommend a lawn be fertilized of watering the law allows is limited. It’s also several times, beginning in the spring and ending important to make sure water from sprinklers isn’t in October). Soil type and grass type also help to being blocked from reaching the grass by trees. determine how much water a lawn needs, and

Poorly situated sprinkler heads can deny lawns the water they desperately need when the temperatures rise.

homeowners who need to determine the type of soil and grass on their property can consult a local lawn care center or landscaping professional. Proper watering can help a lawn survive the dog days of summer, and it’s up to homeowners to learn the right techniques.

Eco-friendly lawn care

can be easy

• Choose a grass that can thrive in your climate. Though you might prefer the look of a certain grass, choosing a grass based entirely on appearance is a mistake that could cost you money and prove harmful to the environment. When installing a new lawn, opt for one that’s suitable to the local climate. Installing a lawn that needs substantial amounts of water in a region known for drought can rob the lawn of its aesthetic appeal and will cost homeowners a substantial amount of omeowners know that a healthy lawn money to maintain. If an existing lawn struggles can add considerable curb appeal to to stay green regardless of your best efforts, then a property while giving residents of consider replacing it with a new type of grass that the home a place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. But few might know that a healthy lawn might be more suited to the local climate. can also benefit the environment, especially when • Don’t cut too low when mowing. Homeowners homeowners take a proactive approach to lawn who don’t enjoy mowing their lawn might care that emphasizes eco-friendly techniques. be tempted to simply cut the grass as low as possible to extend the intervals between cuts. A proactive approach to lawn care can prevent But the United States Environmental Protection certain problems, including disease, insect Agency recommends that grass never be cut infestation and weed growth. When such problems arise, many homeowners opt to combat more than one-third of the height of the grass blades. Longer grass can take in more sunlight, them with pesticides, which can harm the allowing it to grow in thicker and develop a environment. But a proactive approach to lawn care can reduce the likelihood of developing such deeper root system. That deep root system can problems and protect the planet at the same time. help a lawn survive drought and prevent disease, two potentially costly problems that often force • Emphasize healthy soil. Healthy soil promotes homeowners to embrace solutions that are not strong roots, which leads to a more robust, lush eco-friendly. Ideal lawn height depends on the and aesthetically appealing lawn. While a lawn type of grass, so consult a lawn care professional needs to be fertilized in the spring and at various to ensure you are cutting your grass to a healthy points throughout the summer, it’s important that length. homeowners avoid overfertilization, which can • Avoid overwatering. Excessive watering not only create thatch that, when allowed to thicken, will prevent nutrients from penetrating the soil. Lawns wastes water, which is not very eco-friendly, but need more nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium also hurts the lawn when dry periods inevitably arrive. That’s because shallow and frequent than soil can typically provide, so fertilizing watering encourages roots to stay near the surface, throughout the warm weather seasons and into early fall can promote a healthy lawn. But choose so when dry periods arrive, the roots struggle to find water. The EPA notes that an established a slow-release fertilizer so it gradually feeds the lawn should not need daily watering. Instead, lawn. Compost and grass clippings can also be watering responsibly when the lawn needs water spread around the lawn to promote healthy soil. The pH level of the soil should also be checked to and when evaporation can be kept to a minimum, ensure the lawn can fully absorb nutrients. Speak can strengthen a lawn and do so in an eco-friendly way. with a local lawn care professional to determine what a healthy pH level is for soil in your area.




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How to repair



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

dead grass


patch of dead grass on an otherwise lush lawn can be a frustrating eyesore for homeowners. Whether lawn care is your passion or just something you do to maintain the value of your home, dead grass can be exasperating. But as unsightly as dead grass can be, addressing it and restoring the dead patches can be somewhat simple. Before you can restore grass, however, you must first identify the source of the problem. Grass often dies because of urine damage, which is typically characterized by a dead spot surrounded by otherwise green grass. Grub infestation might be at fault when dead grass appears, and such an infestation often produces patches of light brown grass that are scattered throughout the lawn. It’s also possible that dead grass is a result of human error. If your lawn was overfertilized, then patches of graygreen grass may appear. Fungal disease is another common culprit behind dead grass, and such disease can manifest itself in different ways. Once you have identified why the grass is dead, which may require the help of a professional, then you can begin to treat your lawn. Urine damage Urine damage is often limited to a particular area of the grass where

your family pet routinely relieves itself. Once a particular patch of grass has worn down, the pet may move on to another spot. But if you quickly notice a dead spot due to urine damage, you can train the animal to urinate elsewhere, limiting the damage it causes. When repairing the grass, dig a hole that’s roughly four inches deep and fill it with fresh soil until it’s level with the soil surrounding the dead patch. Then you can sprinkle seed on top of the freshly laid soil and water the spot. Grass should grow in and stay green so long as you prevent further urine damage. Insect damage Addressing dead spots caused by insect damage can be a little more complicated, and some homeowners may prefer to hire a professional. If you want to handle the problem on your own, apply pesticide to the affected areas so the insects behind the problem are killed. Once the insects are no more, cut the grass, raking the affected area to remove the dead grass and any additional debris. Scatter grass seed over the affected areas and then apply an appropriate fertilizer and water immediately. Professionals may know just the right fertilizer for your lawn, so even if you want to go it alone,

Identifying the source of the problem is the first step to addressing dead grass.

wake up to more dead visit a local lawn care patches of grass down the center to ask for advice road. about addressing your particular problem. Dead grass can be Fertilizer damage Fertilizer damage can also prove difficult to address, as applying fresh seeds too soon can kill any freshly growing seedlings. So grass that has been damaged by overfertilization must first be allowed to fully die. Once that has happened, the grass can be cut and any remaining debris or dead grass can be removed. Seed can then be scattered, and you can even add some additional soil before laying down an appropriate amount of fertilizer and watering the lawn immediately. If you don’t trust yourself to use fertilizer correctly, then hire a professional to do the job for you. This will cost a little more, but you likely won’t

be easy and can quickly unsightly and turn an otherwise lush lawn into restore a lawn to its green grandeur. a patchy eyesore. But addressing dead grass can


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Spring lawn

Tuesday, April 22, 2014



seeding basics


pring has sprung, and there are many activities to enjoy now that the warmer weather has arrived. Many homeowners make the most of warmer weather by tackling projects around their properties. While autumn is a better time to overseed a lawn for new growth, satisfactory results still can be had if seeding is done early enough in the spring. Grass needs ample time to establish roots and grow strong before Spring is the season to assess lawn health and reseed as necessary to ensure a healthy lawn. the summer heat takes its toll. Many • Spread a mixture of topsoil and help keep moisture in while the seeds you can reduce the frequency of types of grass need six to 12 weeks compost over the top of the lawn. germinate. watering but increase the depth of the of ideal temperatures and growing watering to keep roots strong. conditions to germinate and produce a This will add nutrients through organic • Aim for lawn watering two to sturdy grass that will grow and endure. matter to the lawn and create a good three times per day. The seed should • Avoid foot traffic on a newly seeded base for the new seed to take root. It be barely dry between watering. After lawn until the grass is well established. Seeding can be done to rejuvenate an will also help strengthen any existing seeds have germinated and established, existing lawn and fill in bare spots. It grass and promote long-term health. also can be done to start a lawn from • Test a sample of the soil to check scratch. The following are some tips the pH. Grass prefers a neutral pH, to help make seeding projects more but some soil tends to lean toward the successful. acidic side, especially if you see the • Begin by raking the lawn to Use the equity in your home to help pay for presence of moss. Knowing the pH will remove thatch and any fallen leaves help determine just how much lime the costs of home improvements. Visit Jeff leftover from autumn and winter. per square foot you will need to adjust Raking also enables you to inspect the at Wells Federal Bank to find out how! it accordingly. Liming is a corrective lawn for bare patches or matting of measure and does not need to be used grass that may be indicative of a fungus on a healthy, thriving lawn. or other problem. • Invest in a spreader to add seed • Dust off the mower and trim the to the lawn. The spreader will have lawn short, especially if it was left long various settings that enable you to at the end of last season. This will help calibrate the rate of seed dispersion seed penetrate the blades of grass and depending on your walking speed. Fill get to the soil beneath. the spreader with seed and begin to • High-traffic lawns may need walk around the lawn. Drop spreaders aeration to counteract compacted require you to apply seed in rows soil. Moss on the ground is often an with no overlap. Broadcast spreaders indication of compaction. Aeration will will cast seed widely and may need help with this problem, as it pokes holes some overlap to guarantee complete into the soil to enable oxygenation that coverage. keeps new grass robust and promotes • Spread another thin layer of faster growth. Lawn aerators can be compost mix over the seed and rented from many garden centers. water thoroughly. The compost will




mistakes to avoid


hen designing their landscapes, homeowners may envision grandiose gardens and lush lawns that are the envy of the neighborhood. But such designs can be difficult to maintain, and homeowners often find they are not worth the time or money. Avoiding such costly mistakes allows homeowners to fully enjoy their lawns. The following are a few landscaping mistakes homeowners may want to avoid so they can spend more time enjoying their landscapes and less time working around the yard. • Planting the wrong trees and shrubs: When planting new trees and shrubs around your property, choose varieties that won’t overwhelm the property by growing too large. Such trees and shrubs can mask other elements of a landscape, and they can also take a substantial amount of effort to maintain. Avoid spending too much time pruning trees

and shrubs by opting for those that only grow to a particular size. • Choosing non-native plants: It’s always best to choose plants that are native to a particular region. Native plants have already adapted to the local climate, meaning they can withstand the worst weather that climate has to offer without homeowners having to put in much effort. For example, if you live in an area where drought is common, avoid planting trees, shrubs, flowers, or grass that need ample amounts of water. Instead, opt for those varieties that can survive without significant amounts of water. Exotic plants might add aesthetic appeal to a property, but that appeal is often short-lived or costly to maintain when a plant is not in its native climate. • Too much lawn: While a large and lush lawn appeals to many homeowners, a yard that is all grass can be difficult and expensive to maintain. Lawns without trees are susceptible to damage from the

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

hot summer sun, and homeowners often respond to that threat by overwatering their lawns. Overwatering not only weakens root systems, but it also leads to higher water bills. Homeowners can downsize their lawns by planting more trees around the property, adding a garden in the backyard or even adding landscape features to their property. • Planting without a plan: When planting new trees around a property, some homeowners plant without first considering the ideal locations for new trees. This can prove an expensive

mistake. Planting too close to your house may eventually threaten your home’s foundation, as roots grow deeper and deeper into the ground. Planting too close to a home also may prove a security threat down the road, when the tree has grown to full height. Such trees may threaten the home during a storm, so consult a landscaping professional when planting new trees so the trees are located in a place that does not threaten the value of your home or the safety of its residents.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

HOME LAWN & GARDEN best to read paint can labels thoroughly regardless of how experienced you are at painting. Labels provide safety instructions specific to that particular paint, including suggestions to reduce hazards and advice on what to do should users develop any adverse health effects. It also helps to reread labels once the painting project has been completed. Labels often include instructions on how to clean or discard products and tools after use, as well as suggestions on where to store paints or other products used during the project that may be flammable. Paint during the right time of year. Exposure to chemicals found in paint can be reduced considerably if you paint during the right time of year. Spring and fall make ideal seasons to paint, as the weather outside during these seasons is typically pleasant, allowing painters to open all of the windows without making conditions inside the home unfavorable. Open all of the windows and doors. While it’s especially important to open all of the windows and the door in the room where you will be painting, it’s even better to open as many windows and doors throughout the home, making sure to push curtains and blinds back to let the fresh air pour in. Keeping all windows and doors (use screen doors if you are worried about animals or insects entering the home)

Caution must be exercised when painting indoors.

Caution necessary

when painting indoors


ew people might think of potential safety hazards when planning to paint the interiors of their homes. Though every home improvement project can lead to injury if safety measures are not taken seriously, painting is widely considered a project where doit-yourselfers are at minimal risk of injury. But in addition to the injury risks associated with climbing up and down ladders to paint ceilings or out-of-reach corners, there are some health and safety concerns that painters must consider before beginning their projects. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the majority of paints contain chemicals that evaporate in the air, and these chemicals can adversely

affect human health. Problems associated with chemicals found in some paints include eye and throat or lung irritation, headaches, dizziness, and vision trouble. Professional painters exposed to paint vapors over long periods of time can develop problems with their nervous systems, liver and kidneys, and some chemicals found in paint have been linked to elevated cancer risk. Though painting is often an enjoyable home improvement project, painters still must take the following precautions to ensure their safety when painting the interior of their homes. Read product labels carefully. Paints vary considerably with regard to how hazardous they can potentially be, so it’s

PAGE 17 open promotes ventilation throughout the home, allowing for constant airflow that will usher any potentially harmful chemicals out of your home. If necessary, place a box fan within a window frame to promote cross-ventilation. Never turn on the air conditioner as a substitute for fans and open windows, as that will not be pushing any air out of the home. Seal paint cans tightly once the project has been completed. At the end of the project, you may or may not have leftover paint. If you have a small amount of paint leftover that you do not intend to keep, contact your local government to determine the best way to dispose of the paint. You also can do this if you have empty paint cans but are uncertain if they can be discarded with normal household trash and recycling. If you have a substantial amount of paint left, be sure the lid is closed as tightly as possible, as vapors can leak through poorly sealed containers, putting the health of residents at risk. Once again, read the label to determine the best place to store leftover paint. Painting is widely considered a fun home improvement project. But if certain safety measures are not taken when painting the interior of a home, these projects can put the health of residents at risk.

Home Projects



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

perfect for spring


he rejuvenating spirit of spring makes this beloved season an ideal time for homeowners to take stock of their homes and properties and address any issues that arose during the winter. While some homes make it through winter unscathed, the harsh weather of the year’s coldest season can add several tasks to homeowners’ springtime to-do lists. While some projects are best left to the professionals, others can be tackled even by those homeowners with little or no DIY experience. The following are a handful of projects tailor-made for spring. Inspect the gutters Gutters tend to bear the brunt of harsh winter weather, and come spring gutters are in need of inspection if not repair. Winter winds, snow and heavy rainfall can compromise the effectiveness of gutters, which can easily accumulate debris and detach from homes during winter storms. In addition, gutters sometimes develop leaks over the winter months. As a result, homeowners should conduct a careful inspection of their gutters come the spring, being sure to look for leaks while clearing the gutters of debris and reattaching gutters that might have become detached from the home on windy winter days and nights. When reattaching loose gutters, make sure the downspouts are draining away from the foundation, as gutters that are not draining properly can cause damage to that foundation and possibly lead to flooding. Take stock of roof shingles Much like its gutters and downspouts, a home’s roof can suffer significant damage over the course of a typical winter. Shingles may be lost to harsh winter winds and storms, so homeowners should examine the roof to determine if any shingles were lost (lost shingles might even be lying around the property)

or suffered damage that’s considerable enough to require replacement. Summer can be especially brutal on shingles, especially those that suffered significant damage during the winter. If left unchecked or unaddressed, problems with damaged shingles can quickly escalate into larger issues when spring rains and summer sun inevitably arrive, so homeowners should prioritize fixing or replacing damaged shingles as quickly as possible. Check for freeze damage Frozen temperatures can be hard on humans and homes alike, but unlike humans who can stay inside when temperatures dip below freezing, homes are forced to withstand the elements throughout the winter. External hose faucets are often susceptible to freeze damage. To inspect such faucets, turn the water on and then place a thumb or finger over the opening of the faucet. If your thumb or finger can completely stop the flow of water, the pipe where the water is coming from is likely damaged and will need to be

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replaced. Examine the lawn for low spots Once a lawn has thawed out, homeowners can patrol their properties looking for low spots in the yard or even low spots within spitting distance of the home’s foundation. Such spots increase the likelihood of flooding. Flooding near a home’s foundation increases the risk of potentially costly damage, while low spots on the lawn that go ignored can make great breeding grounds for insects, including mosquitoes, when the weather warms up. When low spots are detected, fill them in with compacted soil. Compacted soil can prevent spring rains from flooding a yard or damaging a home’s foundation. Assessing potential property damage is a rite of passage for homeowners in the spring. Though some damage is significant, oftentimes even novice DIYers can work their homes and properties back into shape in time to enjoy spring and summer.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How to



inspect for roof damage


any homeowners do not think twice about their roofs. But when leaks develop, roof repairs and the subsequent costs of such work shed light on how important it is for homeowners to pay closer attention to the roofs over their heads. Though certain roof issues, like shingles lost to inclement weather, are unforeseeable, many problems can be avoided with routine roof inspection. Checking roof conditions twice a year can help homeowners avoid potentially costly repair work or even more expensive roof replacement projects. Spring is a good time to inspect roofs, which are often at the mercy of harsh conditions throughout the winter. Heavy snow, ice and biting winds can do significant damage, making spring the perfect time to assess if any such damage occurred and address any issues. Start the inspection in the interior of the home. Before breaking out the ladder and climbing up to the roof, inspect the home’s interior, pinpointing potential problems that may indicate roof damage. Check for stains on the ceiling which may indicate leaks that need to be addressed. Homeowners with attics should enter their attics and look for signs of water damage, making note of any damp or wet insulation. This will let you know if water has been entering the attic all winter. Pay attention to the location of any wet spots or stains so you can match them up to the exterior of the roof later on. Musty smells also may be indicative of moisture problems, even if there are no visible leaks. Inspect the roof outside. Grab a set of binoculars and inspect the exterior of the roof. Look at the roof flashing, including around the chimney and other areas of protruding pipes and vents. If the flashing is warped or damaged, moisture might be settling underneath. Sealant around dormers or skylights can also degrade, resulting in leaks. Check for spalling on masonry, such as the mortar of chimneys. Porous areas will allow water to infiltrate. Go directly on the roof and check. Work with a partner and carefully climb on the roof while someone holds the ladder below.

Walk on the perimeter of the roof, looking for peeling or warped shingles, missing shingles, holes, or scrapes. If the roof is compromised in any way, it will need to be repaired. The problem will only grow more significant and repairs more expensive if damage is ignored. Sometimes a repair can be as simple as patching a leak with a new shingle and roofing cement. Popped nails can be pounded down and any curled shingles can be nailed or cemented back into place. Consult a roofing expert. If you are unsure if your roof has made it through the winter unscathed and would like a second opinion or if you find there is considerable damage, contact a roofing contractor. This person will offer a professional assessment of what can be repaired or if the roof should be replaced. If your roof is metal or features clay tiles, you may not have the expertise to make repairs yourself and will need to hire a professional. Check the gutters, too. While you are up on the roof, inspect the gutters and downspouts as well. Cracked or damage gutters will cause water to leak down the side of the home, potentially damaging the foundation. Clear any debris or leftover leaves from the gutters to ensure the rain can wash through unobstructed. A post-winter roof inspection can protect homeowners and their families from the elements and reduce the likelihood of potentially costly repairs down the road. Spring is a good time to inspect roofs, which are often at the mercy of harsh conditions throughout the winter. Heavy snow, ice and biting winds can do significant damage, making spring the perfect time to assess if any such damage occurred and address any issues. Start the inspection in the interior of the home. Before breaking out the ladder and climbing up to the roof, inspect the home’s interior, pinpointing potential problems that may indicate roof damage. Check for stains on the ceiling which may indicate leaks that need to be addressed. Homeowners with attics should enter their attics and look for signs of water damage, making note of any damp or wet insulation. This will let you know if water has been entering the attic all winter. Pay attention to the location of any wet spots or stains so you can match them up to the exterior of the roof later on. Musty smells also may be indicative of moisture problems, even if there are no visible leaks. Inspect the roof outside. Grab a set of

binoculars and inspect the exterior of the roof. Look at the roof flashing, including around the chimney and other areas of protruding pipes and vents. If the flashing is warped or damaged, moisture might be settling underneath. Sealant around dormers or skylights can also degrade, resulting in leaks. Check for spalling on masonry, such as the mortar of chimneys. Porous areas will allow water to infiltrate. Go directly on the roof and check. Work with a partner and carefully climb on the roof while someone holds the ladder below. Walk on the perimeter of the roof, looking for peeling or warped shingles, missing shingles, holes, or scrapes. If the roof is compromised in any way, it will need to be repaired. The problem will only grow more significant and repairs more expensive if damage is ignored. Sometimes a repair can be as simple as patching a leak with a new shingle and roofing cement. Popped nails can be pounded down and any curled shingles can be nailed or cemented back into place.

Consult a roofing expert. If you are unsure if your roof has made it through the winter unscathed and would like a second opinion or if you find there is considerable damage, contact a roofing contractor. This person will offer a professional assessment of what can be repaired or if the roof should be replaced. If your roof is metal or features clay tiles, you may not have the expertise to make repairs yourself and will need to hire a professional. Check the gutters, too. While you are up on the roof, inspect the gutters and downspouts as well. Cracked or damage gutters will cause water to leak down the side of the home, potentially damaging the foundation. Clear any debris or leftover leaves from the gutters to ensure the rain can wash through unobstructed. A post-winter roof inspection can protect homeowners and their families from the elements and reduce the likelihood of potentially costly repairs down the road.

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Home Improvement



tips learned the hard way ‘T is the season for home improvement projects, and weekend warriors will soon be visiting home supply retailers to buy everything from paint to plywood. There are many advantages to making home improvements on your own, including the opportunity to test your mettle at projects big and small. Many a novice DIYer has learned the ups and downs of home improvement through trial and error. But the following are a handful of lessons firsttimers can heed before beginning their maiden voyages into the world of DIY home improvements. Measure twice, cut once. Perhaps this is the best-known mantra of home improvement, yet many still ignore it. Whether you’re anxious to get started or simply because you still cannot convert metric to standard formula, you must take the time to measure twice before cutting. Learning that you’re a hair too short later will be prove frustrating and time-consuming and often necessitates a last-minute run to the store for more materials. Always measure multiple times before making cuts. Enlist a helper. Having a partner helping with the work is the most efficient way to tackle a project. This person can assist you with heavy lifting or moving things or by holding the ladder or simply passing tools your way. He or she also can manage work while you make another run to the home center for more supplies. Having a helper around also provides companionship during tedious projects. Lighten the load. You run the risk of injury, both to yourself and your belongings, if you attempt to move heavy items on your own. When moving heavy items, take steps to lighten your load. For example, empty or remove drawers from desks and dressers before moving them. Rely on sliding pads when moving furniture so items can be slid into place instead of lifted. Always ask a buddy to help move especially heavy items.

Prime before painting. Painting can be a time-consuming task. In an effort to save time, some people will look for painting shortcuts, and these may include skipping the priming portion of painting. Priming helps to cover existing paint color and prevent bleedthrough of stains or darker hues to the next coat of paint. Failure to use a primer could mean having to paint coat after coat, which can become costly and take up a significant amount of time. Always rely on a priming product, or look for a paint that blends a primer within to achieve better coverage. And while you are ensuring a proper paint job, remember to use painter’s tape or an edging product to help keep paint off of moldings and trim. Use the right tools. The right tools make work safer and easier. Think about how much faster you can cut through a tree trunk with a chainsaw rather than a handsaw. Improvising or using the wrong tools for the job can cost you time and increase your risk of injury. Turn electricity off at the panel box. Be especially cautious when working with electricity, turning off the current. This means shutting down the power on the breaker box. A live wire can provide a minor shock or lead to serious injury. Take the extra time to ensure the power is off before working with any exposed wiring. Expect the unexpected. Although many renovation projects go off without a hitch, you never know what you might uncover when you embark on repairs or remodels. Homeowners have come across all sorts of hidden problems when doing seemingly minor repairs. Removal of drywall may uncover insect damage in beams or indications of water infiltration. Some people take down old paneling, only to discover it was covering heavily damaged walls beneath. One repair project can run into another when home improvements are being made. Always leave breathing room in your budget and schedule extra time for unforeseen tasks as well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Home improvement GLOSSARY

Understanding the terminology used in the home improvement  and construction industries can help homeowners be better  informed and involved in projects around their homes. The  following are some common industry terms. Aggregate: Crushed rock used in many asphalt applications. Ampacity:

The amount of current a wire can safely carry.

Asbestos:   A fibrous material that was once used   widely in building materials but is linked to   cancers of the lung and lung cavity. Backfill:    

Soil or gravel used to fill in against a foundation.


Horizontal framing member designed to carry a load from joists or a roof.

Butt joint:   Lumber pieces joined at the ends. Casement window:   A window with hinges on one of the vertical   sides making it swing open like a door. Caulking:   Flexible material used to seal a gap   between two surfaces. Code: 

Rules set forth by a government institution to determine fair and safe trade practices.


A process that brings paint or masonry materials to their final, durable form.


A wall finish made from gypsum plaster encased in a thin cardboard.


The anticipated cost of materials and labor for a project.

Fixed price contract: A contract with a set price for the work. Flashing: 

Sheet metal or roll roofing pieces fit to the joint of any roof intersection or projection.


Widened ground base of a foundation to support foundations or piers.


The structural wooden elements of most homes.


A ground fault current interrupter, which is an electrical device used to prevent injury from contact with electrical appliances.


The exposed upright part on each side of a window frame or door frame.


A tool to check for level or plumb surfaces.


A legal authorization to begin a work project.


The slope of incline on a roof.


Steel rods that are imbedded in concrete for stability.


A tapered piece of wood used to level and secure a structure.


Vertical parts of framing placed 16 or 24 inches apart.


A measure of the electrical requirement of an appliance.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014



Workshop Smarts

Practice Garage and


ompleting home improvement projects on your own can be both rewarding and financially responsible. A growing number of homeowners are dabbling in do-ityourself projects, recognizing both the personal and financial rewards of such undertakings. As more and more homeowners perform their own renovations and other improvement projects, many are outfitting their homes with state-of-the-art workshops and transforming garages into a do-ityourselfer’s paradise. Safety is vital in any workshop. During a typical home renovation, homeowners will use all sorts of dangerous tools and chemicals, and even the simplest mishap can result in a serious injury. Following safety rules can reduce the risk of injury.

Know your tools Before novice do-it-yourselfers begin working with power tools, they should familiarize themselves with their owners’ manuals and the operating instructions. Some home-improvement retailers offer classes in various home renovation projects and may be able to teach tool usage. Do-it-yourselfers should consult professionals with regard to proper tool use and safety. Do not use tools for purposes other than what the tool was intended to do. If machine guards are provided, they should be used and never removed.

Wear safety gear Eye, ear and breathing protection are key in any workshop environment. Dust and chemical gases may be present when working with certain products, and debris can be kicked up and enter the eyes, causing irritation or even blindness. Loud power tools can damage sensitive ears, especially when used in a contained room. Always wear goggles, soundmuffling earphones and dust masks when working. Assess physical well-being Do-it-yourselfers should never work with machinery if they are feeling sick or fatigued or while taking medication that can affect concentration or alertness. All it takes is a moment of distraction to cause an injury. Never surprise anyone who is working with power tools and keep unnecessary people out of the workshop, where they might chat and distract others from the tasks at hand. Factor in ergonomics Failure to work in comfortable conditions can result in repetition injuries or muscle strain. Make the workshop as comfortable as possible. Ensure the work table is at the right height. Use a rubber mat on the floor to reduce standing fatigue. Have a stool or chair available for taking breaks.

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Keep a clean shop Power cords strewn around the workshop present a tripping hazard. They also make it possible to drag sharp or heavy tools off of tables and workbenches if the cords are pulled or tripped over. A neat workshop is a safer workshop. Pay attention to where tools are kept and keep cords manageable. Dress appropriately Loose clothing and hair can become tangled or lodged in equipment. Do not wear jewelry. Dress comfortably but appropriately for the workshop, being sure to wear sturdy shoes.

Lock it up Children and pets are curious and may wander into a workshop to explore. They can become seriously ill or injured by the bevy of chemicals and tools used for common projects. Some items are flammable and sharp and should always be out of reach. Locking cabinets and drawers can keep tools inaccessible. Also warn youngsters against entering the workshop unattended. As more people engage in do-ityourself projects, homeowners should reacquaint themselves with safety procedures.


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Pros and Cons



to air duct cleaning


any homeowners consider having the ductwork in their homes cleaned. Mailers often tout the benefits of this service and warn of the potential hazards that could be lurking inside uncleaned vents and ducts. But whether or not air ducts need to be cleaned remains open for debate. A quick review of air duct cleaning can help homeowners make a more informed decision.

Pros One of the more obvious advantages of air duct cleaning is improved health and hygiene in the home. Those prone to allergies may find that routine cleaning helps ameliorate the problems of sneezing and watery eyes. Duct cleaning can remove allergens and dust. The Environmental Protection Agency says air duct cleaning is handy if there is a noticeable accumulation of dust and debris in ducts or if particles are actually released into the home from supply

registers. If ducts are infested with rodents or insects, cleaning will make indoor air much safer. Mold is another factor to consider when determining if ducts need to be cleaned. Mold spores floating in the air can lead to illness. Professional cleaning may be the only way to remove mold and mildew from the system. Homeowners who have fireplaces may find the air becomes dirtier faster. That’s because of the residue put into the air from burning wood and other fuel. This residue not only builds up inside of the chimney in the form of creosote, but also can form a sticky, sooty layer inside of ductwork. Cleaning the ducts can remove this soot. Cons The EPA advises that no research has definitively shown that duct cleaning prevents health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts. This is because much of the dirt in air ducts adheres to duct surfaces and does not necessarily enter the living space. What’s more, dirty air that enters the home from outdoors or indoor activities, such as



Morning Report

smoking or cleaning, can actually cause greater exposure to contaminants than dirty air ducts. There also is no evidence that cleaning ducts and components of the heating/ cooling system will make the furnace or air conditioner work any more efficiently. Air duct cleaning is an expensive undertaking. On average the cost of such a service can range from $400 to $1,000, depending on the extent of the cleaning and the size of the home. Cleaning the ducts also can be dirty and time-consuming. Cleaning may spread contaminants that were lodged inside of the vents throughout the air more readily. Some cleaning services will advise the use of chemical biocides to treat the interior of vents. These are designed to kill microbiological contaminants. The EPA warns chemical biocides have yet to be fully researched, and homeowners should be fully informed before deciding to permit the use of biocides or chemical treatments in air ducts. Homeowners should never attempt to clean air ducts themselves. If the decision is made to have the cleaning done, it should only be on an as-needed basis and completed by a reputable cleaning service.

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What is duct cleaning? Before looking into the advantages and disadvantages to duct cleaning, it is advantageous to examine the process involved when cleaning air ducts. There are two ways to have the ducts cleaned in a home: rotary vacuum brushing or high pressure air washing. Vacuum brushing utilizes a spinning brush to scrub dust and debris off the air vents and a vacuum to capture whatever is dislodged.

High pressure air washing uses pressurized air blown through the air ducts. A truck-mounted industrial vacuum is attached to the furnace, and all of the air register vents in the home are covered. Once all the air ducts have been blown clear, another air wand is fed into the end of the hot and cold air supply lines. Dust and debris is then drawn backward into the vacuum.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Morning Report

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How to repair

Tuesday, April 22, 2014



and replace window screens W

indow screens can let fresh air into a home while preventing insects and outdoor critters from making their way inside. But screens are far less effective at keeping critters out of a home when they’re damaged. Addressing such damage is typically an easy do-it-yourself project, one that begins with gathering the right materials, including: • new screening, either synthetic or aluminum • a rubber spline • a screen rolling tool • a razor knife or sharp scissor • measuring tape • masking tape • a screwdriver or an awl Once those materials have been gathered, the process of replacing or repairing damaged screens is rather simple. 1. Measure the area of the window to determine how much replacement screening you will need. Remember to leave extra room in your measurements so you have slack to make the new screen fit taut. The measurement will also help you determine how much spline you will need. 2. Remove the screen from the window frame. Some windows do not have removable screen frames, and you will have to work on the screen in its upright position. 3. Use the screwdriver or awl to pry the edge of the existing spline that holds the screening material in the frame. Pull out the old spline and remove the damaged screening.

4. Measure the new screening from a replacement roll. Lay the screening down on the frame, ensuring there is overhang on all sides. If necessary, use masking tape to temporarily secure the screening to the frame while freeing up your hands. This also works if you must replace screening vertically and cannot remove the window frame and make repairs on a flat surface. 5. Take a new piece of rubber spline and push it into the edge of the screen frame, securing a corner of the new screening to the frame. Continue to press the spline around the perimeter of the screen frame firmly into the groove with the screen rolling tool, which looks like a small pizza cutter. This effectively secures the screen into the frame. 6. Continue around the edge of the frame, pulling the new screening taut as you go. This helps to keep it free of wrinkles. 7. Once you have inserted the spline all the way around, cut it off from the spline spool and push in the edge. 8. Use a razor knife or sharp scissor to cut off the excess screening, being careful not to dislodge it from behind the spline when cutting. 9. Replace the screen in the window. In the case of small tears in a screen, a complete replacement may not be necessary. Home improvement stores sell screen patch kits. Some work by cutting out a piece of patch that is attached to an adhesive backing and sticking it over the hole.

Other patches are small, woven wires that can be threaded through the hole in the screen. A really small hole can be mended with a drop of clear-drying glue. The same method of screen replacement can be used to replace

screens on screened-in porches, aluminum doors or sliding patio doors. Just be sure to purchase replacement screening that will fit the dimensions.



of Owatonna

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

sump pump and backup battery


Homeowners who live in areas prone to flooding can protect their homes with sump pumps.

n 2012, hundreds of miles of coastline along the northeastern United States were battered and decimated due to Hurricane Sandy. More than a year later, many homeowners were still dealing with the consequences of the devastating storm. Hurricane Sandy illustrated just how destructive water can be. Each year, storms across North America have the potential to flood homes or cause water to enter the basement or first floor. According to the National Flood Insurance Program, a mere six inches of water in a 2,000 square foot home can cause around $40,000 in damage. Homeowners looking to avoid such damages can rely on sump pumps and backup emergency systems to keep sublevels dry and safe. Sump pumps are frequently used in homes at risk of flooding or in homes where the water table is above the foundation of the home. Sump pumps


common when strong winds accompany flooding rains, a sump pump is rendered useless unless there is a backup battery attached to the sump pump. Having a battery hooked up to a sump pump, or a backup sump pump that is battery-powered, can give homeowners peace of mind in any storm. A backup plan ensures the pump will still be able to remove water for a certain period of time until electricity is restored to the home. Another option is to make sure the sump pump is connected to a power generator should the main power supply go out. As long as the generator is running, the sump pump will expel the water. Water damage to a home can cost thousands of dollars in repairs, particularly when it is not covered by standard home insurance policies. Sump pumps can help keep homes dry and safe.

Get Professional Results in Your Own Backyard. Get Professional Results


remove water that has accumulated in a water collecting sump basin built into the foundation of the home. Water may enter through perimeter drains (French drains) built into the basement or directly through the sump basin itself. The pump will send the water away from the house through a series of pipes that could drain into a dry well, into a municipal storm drain or at the curb. Many sump pumps are hard-wired into a home’s electrical system and will automatically turn on when the water level in the sump basin has risen enough to trigger the pump. A flotation device built into the pump will rise enough to turn on the pump, which will then dispel the water until the device returns to its regular level. When operating correctly, sump pumps are effective at removing water and keeping basements and crawl spaces dry. However, in the event of a power outage, which is

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