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SPRING

HOME GARDEN &

April

9

&

10/

2014


Tax $avings

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SPRING HOME & GARDEN

Wednesday, April 9-Thursday, April 10, 2014

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PAGE 3

Fred Struck, owner of Traverse des Sioux Garden Center in St. Peter, holds up a large pot. Container gardening, the practice of growing plants in containers or pots instead of planting them in the ground, is becoming increasingly popular, he said. (Jessica Bies/St. Peter Herald)

No garden, no problem Culitivating fruits and veggies in containers a growing trend By JESSICA BIES

jbies@stpeterherald.com

With backyards growing smaller, schedules getting tighter and more and more people scrambling for fresh, homegrown produce, small-scale gardening is becoming trendy. According to Fred Struck, owner of the Traverse des Sioux Garden Center in St. Peter, ‘container gardening,’ the practice of growing plants in containers or pots instead of planting them in the ground, is becoming increasingly popular. For many people, it is the only option they have for cul-

tivating their own flowers and produce. “People don’t have room for big gardens, even if they have a regular house, anymore,” Struck said. “Or the time. A big garden is a major time commitment.” Container gardening is ideal for people who have little to no garden space or don’t have the time to get their yard ready for planting, he said. They can grow plants on a balcony, patio, small yard or even in their driveways. Heather Novak, who teaches a class on container garden for New Prague Area Community Education, said the practice is also a good alternative for those who

rent or lease. “More people live in apartments, condos and townhomes that prevent the ability to grow directly into the ground,” Novak said. “Pots are a way around that, especially for those that enjoy the color of flowers or the burst of flavor from a home-grown vegetable.” A wide variety of options Almost any variety of plant can be grown in pot, Struck said, including many fruits and vegetables. “There’s things you can’t do in a container, but the standard things, like tomatoes or peppers, See GARDEN 4

Spring Home & Garden 2014 A special project of the Le Center Leader, Le Sueur News-Herald and St. Peter Herald. Publisher: Stephanie Hill • Managing Editor: Suzy Rook Media Consultants: Kathleen Davies, Stephanie Hill, Kacie Karels, Sherry Wilmes Ad Design: MaryJo Blanchard, Nikkie Gilmore Cover Design: Nikkie Gilmore Page Design: Kelly Kubista Spring Home & Garden 2014 is distributed to subscribers and readers of the Le Center Leader, Le Sueur NewsHerald and St. Peter Herald at no additional charge. All advertising contained herein is the responsibility of the advertiser. Use of material without written consent of publisher is prohibited. All rights reserved. ©2014

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PAGE 4

SPRING HOME & GARDEN

Wednesday, April 9-Thursday, April 10, 2014

SIGN UP FOR NOVAK’S CLASS Date: April 22 Time: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Place: Community Education-CEC, Room 150, 420 N Central Ave., New Prague Fee: $24

Details: Register in person, by mail, by phone at 952758-1734 or online atce.np.k12.mn.us. Plan to plant a small pot of herbs, carrots or root vegetable in class to take home. This class is offered by New Prague Area Community Education.

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Fred Struck, owner of Traverse des Sioux Garden Center in St. Peter, holds up a tray of flowers. (Jessica Bies/St. Peter Herald)

GARDEN: Almost any plant can be grown in a pot From 3 do very well in containers,” Struck said. “You can do most things.” When it comes to picking out plants, he said there are several varieties of both fruits and vegetables cultivated especially for container gardening — one variety of tomatoes are called ‘patio’ tomatoes. When it comes to larger plants, like squash or cucumbers, container gardeners should pick out ‘bush’ varieties, instead of those that grow in vines, Novak said. “The trend of compact ‘bush’ type vegetables is expanding as more people ask for them,” Novak said. “You can now find cucumbers and other vining plants in compact varieties for pots or small square foot gardens. A few green bean plants look nice within a pot with lettuce leaves, a head of cabbage and some onions. Throw some edible sweet potatoes in and

it’s trailing vines make an edible yet beautiful arrangement.” Vegetables and fruits need to be grown outside in full sun, but if you live in an apartment, you may be able to successfully cultivate herbs or succulents, Struck said. “Many of the herbs do well in a container in the windowsill,” Struck said. The right container When it comes to container gardening, one of the biggest keys to success is picking out the right pot. Struck said containers should not be too deep and should have a hole for at the bottom to let out excess water. If the pot is deep, the bottom can be filled with packing peanuts, or other filler. Stones and gravel should be placed in the bottom to help provide additional drainage, he said.

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Wednesday, April 9-Thursday, April 10, 2014

SPRING HOME & GARDEN

GARDEN: Choose the size of your pot depending on what you want to grow From 3 If the pot cannot drain adequately, the plants roots will rot, he said. Choose the size of your pot based on what you want to grow, Novak said. “For example, one tomato plant needs about 4 to 5 gallons of soil to grow,” Novak said. “Lettuce, spinach and other leafy greens can grow in smaller pots about 10 inches in diameter. Also, many people completely fill a pot with vegetables and then there is no room to expand. Flowers can be packed a bit tighter, but vegetables can not, or you will either have sick plants or plants that do not produce.” Plan ahead Novak said those new to container gardening should take things slowly. “Start small,” Novak said. “Pick one pot. The size of pot

GET ADVICE For more advice about starting your own container garden, visit the Traverse des Sioux Garden Center in St. Peter. Address: 1702 N Hwy. 169, St. Peter Phone: 507-931-6682 Website: www. tdsgardencenter.com Facebook: www. facebook.com/ tdsgardencenter

more quickly than those planted in the ground it is a good idea to have a neighbor stop in and water them if you’re going to be away for a few days. You can also place the pots in a shallow dish or coaster filled with water, he said. On the other hand, container gardens typically require less physical labor, Novak said. “Container gardening allows you to have a garden on your patio or your back door and to pick your salad, herbs or cucumbers for dinner,” Novak said. “There is less weeding, less bending to care for the plants or carrying of tools once the pots are placed. The two tools I may use in container gardening is a trowel and a hand cultivator.”

you need will depend on the mature size of the plants you want to grow. Attend a class, check a book out from the library, ask a master gardener and someone that knows about container garReach reporter Jessica Bies at dening.” Though a potted garden may 507-931-8568 or follow her on seem low-maintenance, there are Twitter.com @sphjessicabies a few caveats, Struck added. Because potted plants dry out

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PAGE 5

DID YOU KNOW?

W

atering a lawn can do more harm than good if the lawn is not watered correctly. Excessive watering is a waste of water and can cost homeowners money while harming the environment at the same time. Water that is not absorbed by the lawn can result in runoff, which causes nitrogen in the grass, any fertilizer that was applied and chemicals in the water itself to run into gutters and eventually pollute streams, rivers and oceans. In addition, grass needs oxygen in the soil to grow properly. But when a lawn is overwatered, the oxygen between the soil particles is pushed out, depriving roots of the oxygen they need to grow in strong. This leads to shallow root systems, which make a lawn more susceptible to stress, disease and insect infestation. But overwatering can also be unsightly, as lawns that are overwatered tend to have more weeds, robbing even the greenest of lawns of its aesthetic appeal.


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SPRING HOME & GARDEN

Wednesday, April 9-Thursday, April 10, 2014

BBB: 10 things to do when hiring a contractor Spring weather is almost here and homeowners, as always, will be raring to get to work on their homes and properties. Some are handy enough to tackle their own projects, but many will turn to contractors to make their visions a reality. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is offering a Top Ten list of things people should do before hiring a contractor. “Remodel/build projects can be very exciting, but they can also be very stressful,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “A great way to manage a good deal of that stress is by getting things right on the front end of the project.” Here are ten things everyone should do when hiring a contractor: 1. Check out their track record. Contact BBB to obtain free Business Reviews on any company you’re considering hiring. Visit bbb.org or call 1-800-6466222. 2. Solicit multiple quotes. Shop around and get at least three written estimates. 3. Verify license and insurance. Ensure that companies have a current license to perform work in Minnesota (doli.state. mn.us), as well as liability and workers’ compensation insurance. 4. Ask for references. Get references from recent jobs and verify them before signing a con-

tract. Be leery of people who say they have leftover materials from a nearby project; ensure they are an employee of the business they claim to be representing, and take time to research the business. 5. Inquire about a lien waiver. A lien waiver is a statement from the contractor that all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work. Be sure to ask whether the contractor will provide you with a lien waiver upon completion of the work. 6. Don’t forget building permits. Permits are for your protection and help ensure work will meet local building codes. Check with your contractor before starting your project. Homeowners bear the cost of building permits, but companies should be responsible for obtaining any necessary permits. 7. Consider future service issues. Keep in mind that if you choose a contractor or company that isn’t local you need to know who to contact in regard to any service needs that may arise after completion of the project. 8. Get everything in writing. Don’t allow work to commence without a signed, written contract that includes project start and completion dates, exact costs, specific work to be done and warranty information. Be aware that anything you sign is a contract. 9. Don’t rely on verbal promises. Any promises made orally

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SPRING HOME & GARDEN

PAGE 7

Painting a quick way to beautify the bathroom Recent surveys show that the bathroom has overtaken the kitchen as the most frequently remodeled part of the home. But unless your plumbing is wanting or your tile is intolerable, you can often beautify the bath simply by painting it. “In a lot a cases, people remodel the bathroom not for functional reasons, but just to change and enhance the appearance. If that’s the goal, it can almost always be achieved with an attractive paint treatment,” says Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert for the Paint Quality Institute. Fresh paint can enhance any room, but it can work wonders in the bathroom. Applying a lightcolored paint scheme can “open up” the room and make it seem more spacious. Darker paint colors do just the opposite: reduce the scale and add coziness. Aside from lightness or darkness, there are psychological con-

siderations when choosing paint color for the bathroom. Tints and tones of yellow, orange and red, even including some browns and tans, are “warm” colors, which tend to awaken the senses — helpful in the morning, but not at night. Conversely, “cool” colors, especially greens and blues, are calm and relaxing, perfect for soothing frayed nerves before bedtime. Warm and cool paint colors can also affect our perception of room temperature. Since we associate yellow and orange with the sun, we may “feel” warmer when surrounded by these hues, whereas a blue or green space can seem cooler. As a result, warm colors are often favored in colder climes, and cool colors in the Sunbelt. But color isn’t the only thing to consider when painting a bathroom. The typical bathroom is exposed to water, high humidity, and significant wear and tear.

For that reason, it’s important to select paint that produces a finish tough enough to stand up to these conditions. Until recently, that meant applying a coat of latex primer, followed by two or even more coats of top quality 100% acrylic latex paint. But today, there’s a quicker and easier way to complete your bathroom painting by using new “paint and primer” products. Paint and primer products – also known as self-priming paints – are coatings with a dual personality. Like primer, they conceal the existing paint color and minor blemishes on the painted surface; like paint, they form a tough, colorful finish that is stain-resistant and washable. Rather than taking the traditional approach by applying successive coats of primer, paint, and paint, you usually need to apply just two coats of a paint and prim-

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er product, thereby eliminating an entire application, saving lots of time and effort in the process. To get the best result when painting a demanding area like the bathroom, it’s wise to choose a paint and primer product that will produce a semi-gloss or high gloss finish. The higher the sheen, the easier it will be to remove any marks or stains that find their way onto the painted surface. “It’s also very important to

choose a paint and primer product made with 100 percent acrylic, the same tough binder used in the highest quality traditional paints,” says Zimmer. “Paint and primer made with 100 percent acrylic offers the best hiding and forms the most durable painted surface. These are especially important characteristics when doing bathroom painting,” she says. If you want to give your bath-

room an entirely new appearance this year, maybe all you really need is a colorful new paint treatment. It’s a quick and easy way to enhance and beautify one of the most important rooms in your home. For more information on bathroom painting and the new paint and primer products, visit the Paint Quality Institute blog at blog.paintquality.com.

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PAGE 8

SPRING HOME & GARDEN

Wednesday, April 9-Thursday, April 10, 2014

Simple ways to limit weed growth Weed 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.

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Wednesday, April 9-Thursday, April 10, 2014

SPRING HOME & GARDEN

PAGE 9

Get kids excited about gardening Many 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 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 soil-and-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.

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SPRING HOME & GARDEN

Wednesday, April 9-Thursday, April 10, 2014

Home projects perfect for spring 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 Inspect the gutters Gutters tend to bear the can cause damage to that brunt of harsh winter weather, foundation and possibly lead to and come spring gutters are in flooding. need of inspection if not repair. The 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 tailormade for spring.

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

Each spring, homeowners should inspect their gutters to ensure the gutters are still attached to their homes and free of debris.

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

Lights set the stage for outdoor fun

‘Tis the season for making changes in and around the home. The arrival of warmer weather renews homeowners’ vigor for various home improvement projects, and many have grand plans for interior and exterior renovations as they prep their living spaces for comfort, beauty and entertaining opportunities. While there are many worthy projects to pursue, adding outdoor lighting to a home can help increase its value and make the home safer and more attractive in the evening hours. According to the American Lighting Association, with a few updates to outside lighting, families can make even better use of their homes at night. Adding outdoor lighting is easier and less expensive than many homeowners may know, allowing them to transform an

existing patio, deck or pool area into an enjoyable nighttime retreat. Pool parties, dinners on the patio or barbecues with neighbors become even more memorable when outdoor lighting is added or improved. But homeowners who want to install or upgrade their outdoor lighting should consider the following tips, courtesy of ALA. Improve navigation. Lighting is typically layered into a room or outdoor space in three ways: overhead, task and ambient. Even outdoors, where there are no typical boundaries and borders, those three layers are necessary. Outdoor overhead lighting should improve visibility on steps, paths and walking surfaces, especially where there’s a bend or an intersection. Task lighting can be used around cooking or

gardening areas. Ambient light will cast a comforting glow around any outdoor space. Enhance security. To improve visibility and security, combine a motion detector

with a sconce to illuminate dark corners or entryways. Be sure to aim lights away from the door to improve visibility. Lanterns on either side of the door can

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Wednesday, April 9-Thursday, April 10, 2014

SPRING HOME & GARDEN

LIGHTING: Outdoor lighting can make the view from inside pleasant and enjoyable From 3 give a home a warm, welcoming appearance and improve the safety of entryways. Create outdoor rooms. Outdoor lighting at the borders of a space is a great way to create barriers, both vertically and horizontally. Lights in a tree create something akin to a chandelier hung in the middle of the sky, and even accent lights in the general area of the edge of a patio, deck or porch will shine across the space and provide enough of a comfort level for people to understand where things are. Reduce glare. Outdoor lighting that casts a glare can be blinding, as can light that’s too bright. Lighting along paths should be cast downward, with

fixtures that are hooded. A variety of lighting options will create layers, allowing you to add or subtract as necessary. Exterior-safe dimmers also can provide flexible control over the level of light, as can movable fixtures added to a patio or porch. Add decorative elements. Just as arbors, pergolas, patios and other outdoor elements help to enhance the style of an outdoor space, so, too, can lighting contribute to a welldesigned landscape. Lighting should play up decorative features of a yard and add the ambience that homeowners desire. Step lights make passage safe while also highlighting molding or trim details. An outdoor chandelier can make

for a wonderful accent during dinnertime on the deck or under a pergola. Patio lights provide atmosphere as well as illumination for cooking outside. Enhance views from inside. Outdoor lighting can make the view from inside pleasant and enjoyable. Use a variety of lights, including spotlights on trees, lights dotted along pathways and accent lights on unique landscape features, to create an idyllic landscape visible from inside the home. Outdoor lighting enhances functionality of yards and landscapes while making such areas safer for homeowners and their guests once the sun has gone down.

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SPRING HOME & GARDEN

Wednesday, April 9-Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sealing a driveway can extend its life Installing an asphalt or a concrete driveway can be an expensive undertaking. To preserve the fresh, new look of the driveway, have the driveway sealed and then routinely seal it to keep it looking pristine. A good sealant can keep a driveway looking new longer and also can rejuvenate the appearance of an older driveway. Sealant can be compared to car wax. It provides an outer coating that will repel stains, stop UV rays from fading the driveway and help to protect against cracks and driveway degradation. Over time, asphalt driveways will begin to fade in color and the stone and rocks used in the asphalt mix will appear more prominent. By sealing the driveway, a homeowner can maintain its original dark color. Another reason to seal a driveway is to reduce the chance of freeze-thaw damage. This type of damage results when water penetrates the surface of the driveway and then expands as it freezes. The expansion can cause cracks and fissures, as well as

Driveway sealants preserve the look of the driveway and can make the surface durable and impervious to stains.

compromise the soil underneath the driveway, making it sink or become unstable. Sealed driveways help to keep water beading on the surface of the driveway, rather than being absorbed into the driveway material. When water no longer

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beads on the driveway, this is often an indicator that the driveway needs to be resealed. There are some guidelines to follow when sealing driveways. When starting, sealant should not be applied immediately after the driveway is poured. Concrete needs to cure for a period of up to one month before sealant should be applied. Fresh asphalt contains oils that eventually evaporate. The oils are what makes fresh asphalt pliable and soft. Once these oils evaporate, the asphalt gets harder and more durable. Sealers can prevent evaporation and may make the

asphalt permanently soft. After the initial base application of sealant, the driveway should only be sealed every two to three years, depending on its condition. Sealants are just coatings, and adding too many layers can cause the sealant coatings to crack and peel away. Sealing a driveway is a labor-intensive process that’s best left to professionals. These professionals have the knowledge of technique and the right tools to get an even, thin coating of sealant. Remember, a driveway should not be walked

“We Raise Sunken Concrete”

or driven on for a minimum of 24 hours after sealant is applied. Weather conditions also can influence the amount of time it takes for the driveway to cure. Having the driveway sealed prolongs its durability and

appearance. It also can make the driveway less prone to staining and cracking, making this project a sound investment.

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Wednesday, April 9-Thursday, April 10, 2014

SPRING HOME & GARDEN

Weed out gardening myths from facts Gardening 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 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

PAGE 13

Planning to improve your home?

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

See MYTHS 14

If you’re planning to make a home improvement project, we can help you do it with a home improvement loan. These days, a lot of folks are fixing up their existing home rather than buying new homes. If you have plans, stop by and see us. We’ll see that you get the right loan. We’re an equal housing lender. Think small. Bank smart.

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PAGE 14

SPRING HOME & GARDEN

Wednesday, April 9-Thursday, April 10, 2014

Improve your home and diet with a vegetable garden Planting a garden can add aesthetic appeal and functionality to a property. Vegetable gardens can transform landscapes while putting healthy and homegrown food on the table. By growing their own fruits and vegetables, homeowners have total control over what foods can be harvested, and they can ensure sustainable, safe practices are used to care for the plants. Vegetable gardens can be compact or expansive, depending on how much space is available to cultivate. However, first-time gardeners may want to begin small so they can hone their skills and experiment to see which plants are most likely to thrive in their gardens. Expansion is always a possibility down the road. Choose a location Spend some time examining your landscape. Vegetables generally need ample warmth and sunlight to thrive, so find an area of the yard that gets several hours of direct sunlight per day. A sunny spot is good, but you also want a location with adequate drainage so your garden does not succumb to

from pets so the plants are not tomatoes and peppers, are trampled and cats and dogs do summer vegetables, which not relieve themselves nearby. means they reach peak ripeness after the height of the summer season. Pumpkins, brussel Decide what to plant sprouts and peas are planted When deciding what to plant, to be harvested later on. These consider what you eat and how plants may be put in the ground much produce the household a little later than others. consumes, then choose It is less expensive to start vegetables that fit with your diet. seedlings indoors and then Some vegetables, like peppers, transplant them to a garden tomatoes, eggplant, and squash, when the time comes. Seeds produce throughout the season. can be started three to four Others, such as carrots and weeks before they would be corn, produce one crop and put outdoors. Many vegetables then expire. Plan accordingly are planted outside in April or when you purchase plants or May, but definitely after frost seeds, as you want enough food conditions have waned. Read but not so much that it will go to seed packets to know exactly waste. when to plant or consult Choose three to four different with the nursery where you vegetables and plant them in purchased established seedlings. the garden. Select varieties that You also can visit The Garden require similar soil conditions, Helper at www.thegardenhelper. so that you can adjust the pH com/vegtips to find out when to and mix of the soil accordingly. plant, seed depth and how long This will serve as good practice, it takes plants to reach maturity. particularly the first year of your Vegetable gardens can garden. After you have mastered become central components of the basics, you can branch out outdoor home landscapes. Not into other produce. only do gardens add aesthetic appeal, but also they produce fresh fruits and vegetables to Know when to plant enjoy throughout the season. Many of the foods grown in flooding or fungus during and place the garden too close to where splash-out may occur. vegetable gardens, including after heavy downpours. Don’t rain gutters or near a pool, Select a location that is isolated

MYTHS: Watering during the hottest points of the day is not advised space for roots to grow. The with plain soil for better drainage be changed if gardeners learn to separate myths from facts. drainage may be affected as well, results. as water will sit above the gravel or A variety of gardening myths still stones and saturate the roots. Stick prevail. Over time, behaviors can

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 nutrientrich 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

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EXT FAUCET 6'0 PATIO DOOR

3635

3660

3660-E

3660-E

D

COOKTOP

KITCHEN 180.1 sqf

W

SUNROOM 131.1 sqf

MORNING ROOM 125.4 sqf

MASTER BEDROOM 194.9 sqf

3' 0 FR 9LI TE

MICRO OVEN PANTRY

UTILITY

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SEE-THRU FIREPLACE

8

See-Thru Fireplace

2'8

33"

3660

D/W

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3660

3 DOOR LINEN

3 0 '0

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LIVING ROOM 257.4 sqf

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3060 SG PIC WIN 8860

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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.

2'

From 13 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 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.

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HEARTHSIDE IX MODULAR-365138

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CMH MANUFACTURING, INC.

1

DRAWN BY

JMF

MODEL NO.

DESCRIPTION

32X60 3BR-2BA ORIG. DATE

09/19/2013

MR6032-377

DATE PRINTED

10/04/2013

SHEET NO.

22-1

1100 So. Victory Drive, Mankato Monday - Friday 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. • Every Saturday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. 507-387-4139


Wednesday, April 9-Thursday, April 10, 2014

SPRING HOME & GARDEN

PAGE 15

Landscaping mistakes to avoid

When 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 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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PAGE 16

SPRING HOME & GARDEN

Wednesday, April 9-Thursday, April 10, 2014

Practice garage and workshop smarts

Completing home improvement projects on your own can be both rewarding and financially responsible. A growing number of homeowners are dabbling in do-it-yourself 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 stateof-the-art workshops and transforming garages into a do-it-yourselfer’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-ityourselfers 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-ityourselfers 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.

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.

Keep a clean shop Power cords strewn around the workshop present a tripping hazard. They also Dress appropriately make it possible to drag sharp Loose clothing and hair or heavy tools off of tables can become tangled or lodged and workbenches if the cords in equipment. Do not wear are pulled or tripped over. jewelry. Dress comfortably A neat workshop is a safer but appropriately for the Assess physical well-being workshop. Pay attention workshop, being sure to wear Do-it-yourselfers should to where tools are kept and sturdy shoes. never work with machinery keep cords manageable. Lock it up if they are feeling sick or Children and pets are fatigued or while taking medication that can affect Jim Schmidt Concrete concentration or alertness. and Masonry LLC. All it takes is a moment of distraction to cause an Patios • Sidewalks • Garage Floors • injury. Exposed Aggregate • Brick & Cultured Never surprise anyone Stone • Retaining Walls • Foundations & Poured Walls • Mini Excavator & Bobcat Work • Free Estimates

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urious 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-it-yourself projects, homeowners should reacquaint themselves with safety procedures.

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Wednesday, April 9-Thursday, April 10, 2014

SPRING HOME & GARDEN

Equip your home with a sump pump and backup battery In 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 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 hardwired 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

PAGE 17

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event of a power outage, which is 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.

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PAGE 18

SPRING HOME & GARDEN

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

How to restore dead grass

A 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 gray-green 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, visit a local lawn care center to ask for advice about addressing your particular problem. 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 wake up to more dead patches of grass down the road. Dead grass can be unsightly and turn an otherwise lush lawn into a patchy eyesore. But addressing dead grass can be easy and can quickly restore a lawn to its green grandeur.

Wednesday, April 9-Thursday, April 10, 2014


Wednesday, April 9-Thursday, April 10, 2014

SPRING HOME & GARDEN

Buying, Building, Remodeling... we can help! First National Bank of Le Center is excited to announce a full range of mortgage resources. Enjoy the conveniences of making your mortgage payment locally!

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PAGE 19


PAGE 20

SPRING HOME & GARDEN

Wednesday, April 9-Thursday, April 10, 2014

Come Rain or Shine, now’s the time for a new home!

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