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The Perks of Pruning How pruning benefits your trees and shrubs

Going Green Gardening tips for beginners

Warding Off Weeds Preventing weed growth around your property


March 31, 2013 • The Herald-Sun

Did you know? When people think of outdoor storage, they generally envision garden sheds to house their lawn and garden equipment and tools. However, if space doesn’t allow for a large shed, there is no need to fret because there are other storage possibilities. Consider a garden ottoman or bench, for example. This structure can be built from wood and then painted or covered in padded fabric. Store small items inside the ottoman, which can also serve as a table or additional seating. Homeowners with a deck can construct lidded deck boxes to store patio cushions or any other outdoor equipment. Utilizing the space under the deck is another idea. Cover the perimeter of the bottom of the deck with lattice and install one piece on a hinge to serve as a door. Store equipment underneath and out of sight. It also will be protected from the elements.

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 atering 101 ­– Help W your lawn thrive through the dog days of summer

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Serving the Decorating Needs of the Triangle since 1986

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The benefits of 6 11pruning trees and shrubs How to repair bald 7spots in your lawn Managing yard 12difficult situations Shopping for a fire pit


Cost-effective fencing options


Caring for a freshly sodded lawn



Benefits to hiring a landscaping service


Transocean Rugs

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Gardening tips for beginners

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Watering 101 BEST RENT-ALL, INC. The Herald-Sun • March 31, 2013


Help your lawn thrive through the dog days of summer


ummer can take its toll on just about everyone. Even the most ardent fan of summer eventually grows weary of a heat wave, which can make something as simple as walking down the street seem exhausting. While human beings have their ways of surviving summer heat, such survival can be more difficult for your lawn and garden. Certain grasses and plants thrive in hot weather. But when the dog days of summer arrive, even those grasses and plants built to withstand the summer sun can suffer. That’s why watering takes on such importance in the summertime, when grasses and plants need water to avoid drying out and possibly even dying. The following are a few basic watering techniques to help homeowners keep their lawns going strong through the next summer swoon. Water when it’s coolest. Watering when the temperatures are their lowest might seem counterintuitive. After all, homeowners might think their grass and gardens need water most when the temperature is at its highest. But watering when the temperature is cooler decreases evaporation, meaning your lawn will get the water it needs and won’t lose any to steamy conditions that cause evaporation. This is especially important when the amount of water you can use is limited by a drought restriction. You’ll want to make sure the water you can use is actually going to the lawn and not evaporating as you’re watering. Watering in the early morning or in the evening, when the sun is not as strong and the temperatures are generally at their coolest, also reduces the likelihood that your grass will burn. That’s because water attracts the sun, and a lawn that’s wet in the middle of a

hot day might attract too much sun and cause the lawn to burn. Recognize that not all plants are the same. How much water a plant needs and how frequently it needs to be watered largely depends on how deep its roots are. A plant with shallow roots won’t need to be watered for long periods of time, but it will need to be watered frequently, whereas a deeprooted plant like a tree or a shrub will need to be watered for long periods of time but not as frequently. Research the plants around your property to determine the depths of their root systems and water accordingly. Lean on mulch to retain moisture. Mulch is often considered an aesthetically appealing addition to a landscape, but it serves a practical purpose as well. Mulch retains moisture during the hot summer months, reducing the need to water — a valuable benefit during a drought restriction. Mulch also makes it difficult for weeds to grow, which can keep homeowners from spending hot summer afternoons pulling weeds out of their gardens and flower beds. Strategically locate sprinklers. Sprinklers should be located so no water is ending up on the driveway or sidewalks around your property. Watering the concrete or asphalt is wasteful, and that’s water that could be going toward your plants. When watering by hand, be sure all of the water is finding its way to plants and not on any walkways. Successfully watering a lawn and garden during the dog days of summer can greatly reduce the risk of ending summer with a lawn full of bald spots and a garden filled with wilted plants.






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March 31, 2013 • The Herald-Sun

Eco-conscious ways to tend to your lawn M any homeowners are constantly on the lookout for ways to make their homes more environmentally friendly. Such a pursuit is both noble because it helps the environment and practical because it often saves money.

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A push mower that does not rely on gas to work is one way homeowners can take a more eco-friendly approach to lawn care.

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While there are many eco-friendly improvements homeowners make inside their homes, it’s important to note that there are several ways for men and women to be more environmentally conscious outside of their homes as well. Lawn care can be done in a way that’s conscious of the environment, and the results can be just as appealing. The following are just a few of the many ways homeowners can adopt more eco-friendly practices when tending to their lawns. Be conscientious when watering. Overwatering a lawn is pretty common, especially during the dog days of summer, when homeowners try to overcompensate for hot days with excessive watering. The growth of moss on sidewalks or the driveway is a telltale sign that you’re watering too much, as is a standing pool of water on the grass. Turn back the clock on your tools. Before gas mowers became the standard, man-powered push mowers were used to cut the grass. Such mowers still exist, and they require

no fuel, making them a more ecofriendly option than their gas-powered counterparts. Along those same lines, leaf blowers are a far less friendly way to rake leaves in the fall or clean the yard after a long winter. While there’s no denying their effectiveness, leaf blowers need gas to operate, while a rake just requires some elbow grease and a little extra time out in the yard. Stay local. If you need to plant new grass or you’re beginning a garden, then stick with local plants, flowers and grasses rather than more exotic options that are not native to your area. Plants, flowers and grasses that aren’t native to your region will require more maintenance and often more watering. That added maintenance might prove to be a headache, and that excessive watering will not be beneficial to the environment. Native plants, flowers and grasses have already adapted to your climate, and they can be provide just as much aesthetic appeal as more exotic alternatives. Avoid pesticides whenever possible. Many homeowners treat their lawns with pesticides, which can make a lawn look beautiful. But that beauty typically comes at a steep price, impacting local wildlife and perhaps even the local water supply. When pesticides are applied to a lawn, the chemicals within may run off into your local water supply. If you can’t avoid pesticides entirely, then do your best to minimize how often you use them. Don’t let rain water go to waste. Rain barrels are a great way to make good use of rain. Rain barrels can be placed beneath a gutter’s downspout, where they will collect water that can be reused throughout your property to water the lawn and garden. Rain barrels can be relatively expensive, but over time they will pay for themselves as you save money on your water bill. Lawn care can be conducted in a way that benefits the environment as well as your bottom line.

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March 31, 2013 • The Herald-Sun

Shopping for a fire pit P

eople have enjoyed open fire outdoors for centuries. Not only does fire provide warmth and light, but also it offers a relaxing setting for conversation and socialization. The outdoor fire pit has transformed the concept of backyard entertaining. Homeowners understand how a fire pit can add value to a home and make their yard an inviting place to be on a summer evening or a chilly autumn night. Outdoor fire pits are a relatively new creation that continue to grow in popularity. Once available strictly through specialty retailers, fire pits can now be found on the shelves of many home improvement and big box stores. Fire pits can add a lot to a home’s exterior entertaining area. Some fire pit styles and materials will last longer than others. Homeowners should assess their needs and the space available before choosing a fire pit for their home. First, homeowners must decide if they want a permanent or portable fire pit. If you are ready to make an enduring change to your yard and landscape, then a permanent fire pit is the way to go. These can be made of stone or brick and are often very durable. Permanent fire pits can be incorporated into landscape designs to create a professional patio look. They’re also some of the safer types of fire pits because they cannot be knocked over and the bricks or retaining wall construction provide a barrier around the fire.

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Portable fire pits are freestanding units that can be moved around the yard on a whim. They also can be loaded into the car and taken to a neighbor’s house or even to the beach. Portable fire pits are less expensive than permanent models, and some homeowners prefer a trial run with a portable pit before deciding to install a permanent structure. Portable fire pits are made of metal and usually coated with a fireproof paint. Over time, exposure to the elements can cause the metal to rust or weaken, something homeowners should consider prior to purchase. Homeowners also must consider a fuel source. Wood is a common fuel source for fire pits. Wood can be inexpensive, especially when gathered from around the yard. However, a wood-burning fire will constantly have to be fed with new branches. If you want to have a roaring fire but don’t want to maintain it, then a gas-fueled fire pit is better. Natural gas fire pits can run off of a portable propane tank (think barbecue tank) or be directly connected to a home’s natural gas supply. Now you can decide on the style. Gas fire pits will give you a greater number of design options, but there are still plenty of choices with wood fire pits. From bowl-shaped pits to rectangular-shaped pits to barrel-style pits to chimineas, there are designs to fit most preferences and size constraints. Once you have chosen a fire pit, safety should prevail. Here are some tips to consider. • Keep the fire pit away from the home and objects that can burn. Maintain a safe distance from the fire pit at all times. • The best place to have the fire pit is on hard stone, cement or tile. Portable fire pits can be placed on patio stones in the lawn. • Use a screen to keep embers and sparks from escaping during use. • Keep children a good distance away from the fire pit and always supervise when the pit is in use. • Make sure the fire is completely extinguished before going in for the night. • Do not use any accelerants to make the fire bigger or light faster. • Buy a vinyl cover to protect the fire pit from the elements when not in use.


The Herald-Sun • March 31, 2013

How to repair unsightly bald spots in your lawn


awn care aficionados know how a single bald spot can make an otherwise luscious lawn look worn down and poorly maintained. A bald spot can stick out like a sore thumb, while several bald spots can compromise a home’s curb appeal. Treating bald spots typically depends on what is causing the bald spot. Bugs, dryness, pet waste and damage from mowers are some of the more common causes of bald spots. The following is a breakdown of these different causes and how best to address each situation so you can restore your lawn to its natural beauty.

DRYNESS A lawn can go dry because of drought in the summertime or during the winter months when there is not much rain or snowfall. Homeowners cannot change the weather, but they can help their lawn avoid becoming the burned or yellowed turf that often results after extended periods of dryness. Fertilizing the lawn during the spring and summer is a good first step. This helps the lawn grow in healthy and thick. Once you have fertilized, don’t cut the grass too short. When grass is cut too short, the soil struggles to retain moisture, which can eventually lead to bald spots if weather conditions are dry. During especially dry periods in the summer, watering might be necessary. You won’t have to water frequently, but be sure to water deeply so the water can reach the roots of the grass. PET WASTE Waste from pets can cause bald spots on a yard. This might surprise some homeowners, but pet waste contains a high level of concentrated nitrogen that, when applied to a lawn, can burn the grass and cause bald spots. Urine is most likely to cause bald

spots, but fecal matter can as well. When addressing the problem of pet waste on your lawn, make sure no one else’s pets are the cause of the problem. Neighbors out walking their dogs should be discouraged from allowing their dogs to use your lawn as a restroom. If this does not work, then erect a fence or some type of structure that makes it difficult for other people’s pets to access your lawn. When it’s your own pet causing the damage, address the spots where your pet relieves itself as quickly as possible. Watering the area within eight hours can significantly reduce the risk of lawn damage by diluting the nitrogen levels. Another way to address the issue is to encourage the animal to use various spots in the yard, rather than continually using the same spot. Flush each area with water immediately after the pet is finished. If the damage is already considerable, remove the damaged grass and reseed the spot. MOWER DAMAGE Sometimes Mother Nature and man’s best friend are not the culprit with regard to bald spots on your lawn. Human error can cause bald spots,

Even the cutest pet can contribute to bald spots on your lawn. too. Dull mower blades or grass that is cut too low can cause bald spots. Fortunately, this is easily remedied. To avoid bald spots, make sure mower blades are sharpened at the beginning of each mowing season, as dull blades damage the grass, which is then forced to use valuable nutrients to treat torn grass, weakening the lawn over time. When mowing, make sure you’re not cutting too low so the

soil can retain as much moisture as possible. This will necessitate more frequent mowing, but this, too, can prevent bald spots, as it ensures those parts of the grass that contain chlorophyll will not be removed. Bald spots can turn a pristine lawn into an eyesore. But treating bald spots can be easy and, when done effectively, the lawn can be restored quickly.

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March 31, 2013 • The Herald-Sun

Cost-effective fencing options F

encing serves many purposes. Some homeowners erect a fence for privacy, while others do so to contain pets and children. Because fencing can be expensive, some homeowners look for ways to cut costs, which can be relatively easy, especially for those homeowners willing to consider various materials when erecting their fence. Traditional fences are available in materials ranging from wood to vinyl to metal. Homeowners have other options at their disposal if they prefer a more natural fence. Different shrubs, trees or grasses can be planted to create a barrier between properties or within the property. When choosing a fencing material, consider that even a less expensive material may prove more expensive in the long run if it needs significant maintenance or has to be replaced in just a few years. Therefore, the most cost-effective fencing material may not necessarily be the least expensive one at the store. Here are some materials homeowners can consider. Found material: Repurposed wood or metal can be crafted into a rustic,

one-of-a-kind fence. Materials can be found that are no cost, requiring only the cost of labor. Should you build it yourself, this can be next to nothing. Sometimes existing fences on another property can be disassembled and rebuilt on your own property for little to no cost as well. Chainlink/chainwire: Chainlink fencing is one of the most economical types of boundary fencing. The fencing comes in a variety of diamond sizes and is fixed to galvanized pipes spaced across the perimeter of the property. Although it is some of the least expensive fencing, it does not offer much privacy on its own. But if you are looking at fencing simply as a barrier, chainlink could be the way to go. Picket fencing: A wooden picket fence is another inexpensive fencing material. The pickets can be purchased in various heights, and this fence may be used as garden border fencing or to mark a property line between homes. Spacing the pickets widely apart may cut down on the number that need to be purchased, further keeping the cost down. Bamboo: Bamboo is a rapidly

growing grass that produces a hard wood-like material that is used in many building applications. Bamboo wood can be used to build a fence, but the natural plant also can be planted to form a living fence for privacy. Stockade fencing: A stockade fence is one of the more basic wood fencing options. Wooden slats are placed alongside one another to form an effective and affordable privacy fence. Stockade fencing can be stained or painted to preserve it. Many home improvement retailers sell panels of stockade fencing so that you can make fence installation a do-it-yourself project.

Caring for a freshly sodded lawn


od, sometimes called turf, can quickly turn a barren landscape into a rich, thick carpet of green. Homeowners hoping to revive their lawns commonly turn to sod as the quickest means to do just that. However, once the sod has been laid down, few homeowners may know how to keep it looking its best. Sod is real grass that is grown on special farms. It is generally grown locally to avoid long transport times that could dry out the product. Sod is typically sold in squares or rolls of grass that come with the roots and soil already attached. There may be some sort of thin backing material on the sod to keep the grass blades together. Many homeowners turn to sod when growing lawn from seed becomes

problematic or too time-consuming. Seeds can be blown around in the wind or be eaten by birds and other animals before they have a chance to germinate. Sodding a lawn is a major investment, costing as much as $1 per two-foot square. Depending on the size of your lawn, this can be a costly job even before adding the cost of additional supplies, such as soil, fertilizer and tilling equipment. Many homeowners who install sod want to ensure their investment lasts. Here are the main ways to care for and protect sod until it is fully established.

• It is important to establish a watering schedule to keep the sod moist. Water the sod to a depth of one inch every other day for the first three weeks to enable the roots to securely establish themselves in the soil.

•O  nce the sod has been laid down, the lawn should be thoroughly soaked with water. Most experts recommend soaking it to a depth of 6 inches.

•W  ait two to four weeks before mowing the sod. Keep the lawn height to around two inches to ensure that it won’t scald in the sun.

•W  ater the sod every other day unless the weather has been very warm. After four weeks you can generally go up to five days without watering as long as you transition slowly. The sod will change colors if it is not getting enough water. Never let the lawn turn yellow, otherwise you may have to cut out dead spots and re-sod.

Vinyl fencing: Although vinyl fencing is one of the more expensive fencing materials at the outset (it costs about twice the price of a wood fence), it does pay for itself rather quickly thanks to minimal maintenance. Unlike some other materials, vinyl will not rot or discolor. You also won’t have to purchase stain, paint and expensive cleaners for a vinyl fence. That means once you make the investment, you will have years upon years of maintenancefree enjoyment. There are many different fencing materials that can coordinate with a variety of budgets.

• After two months of established sod growth, aerate the sod to keep the soil from being too compact and to enable oxygen and nutrients to get into the soil. • Keep children and pets off of the sod while it is establishing itself. • Fertilize the lawn every 50 to 60 days, beginning in March and ending in October. • Inspect the sod for pests, which may include insects or problems like fungi or weeds. Treat accordingly with products designed to remove pests. Using sod to establish a lush lawn is a fast, albeit more expensive option to sowing seeds. After a few weeks the lawn will be thick and secure.

The Herald-Sun • March 31, 2013

Benefits to hiring a landscaping service


he desire to have a pristine, well-manicured landscape leads many homeowners to toil outdoors for hours every weekend. Hiring a professional landscaper can free up homeowners’ time and help them ensure their yards are cared for properly. One of the benefits of hiring a landscaper is the time savings. Landscapers typically have commercialgrade equipment that can dramatically reduce the time it takes to mow and perform other maintenance tasks around your property. Furthermore, some services have multiple employees working concurrently, enabling them to tackle several projects at the same time and complete them in a fraction of the time it would take a homeowner working on his or her own. Landscapers familiar with botany and landscape design understand how to properly care for plants and trees on your property, while novice green thumbers may be unaware about when to prune trees and shrubs, at what height to cut the lawn and which plants

will thrive in particular locations. Such do-it-yourself maintenance may even cost more money than leaving it to a professional. Hiring a professional landscaper is, in many instances, more economical. For a certain weekly or monthly fee, homeowners receive the benefit of professional knowledge and execution. Also, homeowners will not have the expense of purchasing the various tools and equipment necessary for lawn and garden maintenance, tools and equipment that include lawnmowers, string weeders, edgers, fertilizer, grass seed, leaf blowers, and shovels. Another benefit is the lawn will continue to be mowed whether a homeowner is home or not. During the spring and summer vacation season, it’s easy for homeowners to overlook their lawn and garden in favor of recreation and leisure activities. Without proper watering and maintenance, lawns and gardens can brown or overgrowth can occur. But hiring a landscaping service allows homeowners to rest assured that their yards will be maintained whether

they’re home or not. Hiring a local landscaping service will not only benefit homeowners, but also it will benefit the local economy. Residents can feel comfortable knowing their lawn service will be available for calls when needed and will be familiar with the community. Also, local contractors may go the extra mile to earn your business recommendation. Hiring a landscaping service can be advantageous to homeowners who want to free up time and still enjoy a well-maintained landscape.

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March 31, 2013 • The Herald-Sun

Preventing weed growth a priority for homeowners W

eeds in a lawn or garden can be an unsightly and potentially unhealthy nuisance. No gardener enjoys seeing weeds spring up throughout his or her carefully planted garden, as such uninvited guests rob a well-tended garden of its aesthetic appeal. In addition, weeds can steal valuable water and nutrients from plants, prohibiting their growth as a result. Homeowners who understand how harmful weeds can be can prevent them in a variety of ways. Where weed growth is insignificant, it might be possible to simply pull them out of the ground before they can do any substantial damage. In areas of heavy weed growth, however, a more concentrated effort must be made to prevent further weed growth once the weeds have been removed. The following are a few ways homeowners can prevent weeds from growing throughout their lawns. Be proactive. Preventing weed growth is a proactive job, so homeowners want to be proactive to keep weeds from infesting their property. Proper and routine lawn maintenance might be all it takes. Add quality topsoil to your lawn or garden to

produce a healthier surface that makes it more difficult for weeds to grow. As the season progresses, continue to maintain your lawn by mowing and watering. Aerate the soil at the onset of the season. Aerating your lawn at the dawn of the mowing season helps break up soil that grew compacted over the winter. Once aerated, the soil can disperse nutrients, oxygen and water more effectively, allowing healthier roots to grow and reducing the risk of weed growth as a result. Fertilize the lawn. Fertilizer helps grass grow in thick and dense, which leaves little to no room for the growth of weeds. While fertilizer does not necessarily guarantee that weeds won’t grow, it does go a long way toward helping a lawn grow in healthy, and a healthy lawn is often a weed’s worst enemy. Some fertilizers on the market are a combination of fertilizer and weed preventer, and such products might be ideal for homeowners who are especially concerned about weed growth. The lifespan of weed preventers varies, so keep in mind that you might need to reapply a weed preventer in a few months to keep getting the same results. Fertilizing is

Removing Unsightly Weeds When removing weeds, it’s best to remove the weeds with their roots. Smaller weeds with shallow roots can typically be removed with a gentle pull and the roots will come right out with the weed. Larger weeds with deeper roots can be a little tougher to remove, and they might damage surrounding plants if you pull too hard. In such instances, dig around the stem with a small hoe to loosen the soil and then firmly pull the weed out of the ground. If that does not work, dig a little deeper and try again. When there are simply too many weeds to pull out of the ground, a garden hoe is effective for shallow-rooted weeds. Where deep-rooted weeds are present, a garden hoe is less effective because it does not usually reach the roots. A winged weeder, though more time-consuming than a hoe, goes deeper into the soil to pull the roots. Chemical weed-killers are another option, though they are not very eco-friendly and chemical products must be sprayed on the entire weed to kill it completely.

typically done twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. Lay down landscape fabric. Landscape fabric is another weed prevention alternative that can prevent weed growth for several years. Before laying down landscape fabric, which is perhaps most commonly used in flower beds, remove all weeds and other vegetation you do not wish to grow. You will likely need to cut the fabric to the area you want it to cover and cut an opening for plants and flowers. The fabric is then typically covered with mulch, which keeps the fabric in place.

Landscape fabric is effective because it blocks the sun from reaching any area that it’s covering while still allowing air, water and nutrients to penetrate and reach the soil. Weeds need sun to grow, so landscape fabric can be highly effective at preventing weed growth. Weeds are an unsightly nuisance that homeowners would prefer to do without. Preventing weed growth is relatively easy, and, in many cases, your efforts can bear fruit through the entire season.

Did you know? Landscape fabrics are used to prevent weed growth while still allowing air, oxygen and water to flow to and from the soil. Landscape fabrics are a chemical-free way to prevent weed growth, endearing them to ecofriendly homeowners. Landscape fabrics, once laid, also are a far less labor-intensive method to prevent weed growth, as they can be effective for several years, during which homeowners can expect to perform little or no maintenance. In addition, many homeowners prefer landscape fabrics because they can help the soil effectively maintain moisture during dry periods, when gardens might otherwise be highly susceptible to drought. Once put down, landscape fabric can be covered with mulch to add aesthetic appeal.


The Herald-Sun • March 31, 2013

The benefits of pruning trees and shrubs Pruning trees and shrubs is necessary to ensure they maintain their health and vigor. Trees and shrubs should be inspected annually to determine if they need to be pruned. Mature trees typically do not need to be pruned as frequently as young trees, which need pruning to establish branch structure. Trees and shrubs that go years without pruning can become overgrown and weak. In addition to promoting tree and shrub health, pruning pays a host of other dividends. Pruning removes dead or diseased branches. Pruning helps a tree or shrub maintain its shape and vigor by removing broken, dead or diseased branches that can be unsightly and make it more difficult for the tree or shrub to stay healthy. When broken, dead or diseased branches are removed, trees or shrubs look healthier and add aesthetic appeal to a property. Pruning trees and shrubs promotes growth of other plants. Trees and shrubs that go years without being pruned become overgrown, making it difficult for plants underneath or adjacent to them to grow in healthy. For example, grass beneath an overgrown tree might not get adequate sunlight, which it needs to establish strong roots so it can grow in lush and healthy. Pruning allows plants beneath the tree and shrub and even those next to the tree and shrub to grow in nicely. Pruning can sometimes bring plants back to life. Shrubs that have gone years without being pruned can sometimes still be salvaged. In some instances, pruning such shrubs can restore natural and healthy growth. Pruning reduces risk of accidents. Overgrown trees can interfere with power lines, increasing the risk of accidents and power outages. In addition, overgrown trees tend to have larger, weaker limbs, which can prove hazardous and cause property damage during storms. Pruning overgrown trees reduces the risk of such accidents. Pruning can save money. Over time, overgrown trees might require professional assistance in order to be removed or pruned from a property. Homeowners who prune their trees as needed can save themselves the cost of a potentially pricey tree service. Pruning adds curb appeal. A property littered with overgrown trees and shrubs hurts a home’s curb appeal, giving prospective buyers the impression that homeowners might have been careless with regard to maintaining the whole house and not just the lawn. But trees and shrubs that are pruned and well-maintained can add to a home’s curb appeal, something that goes a long way toward impressing prospective buyers.

The case for choosing native plants


ne of the best ways to improve a home’s resale value is to address the landscape. Increasing a property’s curb appeal can be done in many ways, but a well-pruned lawn and garden gives buyers the impression that the sellers truly took the time to maintain the home and the surrounding property. Unfortunately, many homeowners choose exotic plants when addressing their landscape. Though these plants can be appealing and make a property stand out, if the plants are not native to the region, they could be doing more harm than good. Instead of upgrading your property with exotic plants from a far away land, consider the following benefits of choosing native plants before addressing your landscape. Native plants benefit local wildlife. The native plants and the native wildlife spent years and years evolving together, with each doing their part to ensure the other’s survival. But as development continued, local wildlife suffered because of lost food sources. The local wildlife needs local, native plants to survive, so choosing these plants instead of exotic plants can help ensure the survival of wildlife that helps keep the ecosystem in check. Native plants require less work. Some prospective home buyers might find a yard filled with exotic plants to be visually stunning, but they might also see a good deal of work to maintain those plants. Many exotic plants require significant work on a homeowner’s part to survive, while native plants have already adapted to the local climate and will require much less care. This is often attractive to current and future homeowners alike. Native plants might be a better investment. A Celebrating Celebrating native plant has evolved Years over the years to survive Years in its given area. Local insect populations and fungal infections might be able to destroy an exotic plant, but a native plant has grown resistant to such problems and likely has the ability to fight such infestations or infections on its own.

An exotic plant might require costly pesticides and considerable attention from homeowners to survive such problems. Though homeowners might find exotic plants help their home stand out from their neighbors’, it’s important that homeowners recognize the environmental benefits of choosing local plants before making any decisions.

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March 31, 2013 • The Herald-Sun

Managing difficult yard situations


any homeowners aim for a picture perfect lawn complete with rolling acres of soft, green grass. But Mother Nature may have other things in mind, providing homeowners with less-than-stellar growing conditions for their lawns, plants and other foliage. Frustration can mount when a yard is muddy, is especially shady or has soil that doesn’t seem to grow a thing. In such instances, homeowners may have to go the extra mile to get the yard they desire. IRRIGATION ISSUES Improper drainage or low-lying areas in a yard may contribute to a muddy mess. Soil that is inhospitable for grass also may end up causing muddy patches because the grass simply does not grow. In some cases, remedying a muddy yard is easy and inexpensive. Some homeowners find that tilling the soil and amending it with a fiber mulch helps to absorb extra water and make the conditions better for lawn seeds to sprout. This also helps to aerate compacted soil that can hinder grass growth. Adding soil fill also may help to level low-lying areas that can be puddling. Some homeowners find that they need to do a little more work and spend some more money to fix irrigation issues. Installing a draining system or having the property sloped to draw water away can sometimes be done by a homeowner but is often best left to a professional. You may need to dig trenches, and the property may need to be regraded to make a difference.

Shady situations may impede grass growth in a yard.

SANDY SOIL Grass and other plants may not grow well with sandy or clay soil. Again, amending the soil is one way to remedy the problem. Although it will take some work at the outset, amending the soil can improve conditions and reduce how much maintenance the lawn needs. Digging down several

inches and adding nutrient-rich filler soil will help create conditions that are better for growing. Those who are interested in planting vegetables could opt for raised garden beds above the challenging soil. SHADE Sometimes a yard is problematic because of the amount of sunshine it receives. Too much sunshine can scald certain grasses, while inadequate sunshine may result in bare patches where grass won’t grow. If cost is no object, removing or planting trees to establish better growing conditions could be an option. However, today there are many grass blends that are tailored toward specific sunlight scenarios. Homeowners may find that low-light blends will grow better in shady areas. For those who are finding no luck with grass blends, it may just be necessary to think creatively. Plant shade-loving plants, such as ferns or ground cover, where the grass won’t take. Design the landscape so it looks intentional. Flagstone and slate placed in certain areas also may mask temperamental growing areas. There are different options for managing various situations in the yard that can make growing lawn or other plants challenging. If projects are difficult, it could be smart to call in a professional.

The Herald-Sun • March 31, 2013


Gardening tips for beginners DURHAM GARDEN CENTER G

ardening is a rewarding hobby that many enthusiasts credit with helping them to peacefully escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Though gardening can be both relaxing and rewarding, it’s not as easy as it may seem, and the more time and effort a person devotes to his or her garden the more likely it is to be successful. Gardening can be a little daunting for beginners. But gardening need not be so intimidating, especially for those beginners who adhere to the following tips aimed at helping novice gardeners start their gardens off on the right foot. Determine what you should plant. Where you live will go a long way toward determining what you should plant. While you can plant anything you can get your hands on, the United States Department of Agriculture as well as Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada have determined specific plant hardiness zones that indicate which plants are most likely to thrive in given locations. Maps of these zones can be found at and www.agr. When in doubt about what to plant, consult a local gardening center or seek advice from a professional landscaper. Think location when beginning your garden. Beginners with large yards have the luxury of choosing the right location on their properties to start planting. When choosing a spot, consider how much sunlight a location gets on a daily basis and the spot’s proximity to a water supply. If planting flowers, try to avoid planting in areas with heavy foot traffic so the flowers

are less likely to be stomped. Get started before you plant. Preparing the soil a few weeks before you start planting can help the plants thrive down the road. Add some organic material, such as compost or fertilizer, to the soil roughly three weeks before planting. This helps the soil retain water and nutrients, which will help your garden thrive. Time your planting. When you plant is sometimes as important as what you plant. Some climates allow for yearround planting, but many do not. When buying seeds, the packaging might suggest what time of year to plant the seeds. Adhere to these suggestions or your garden might not grow much at all. Don’t forget to mulch. Mulch can be as aesthetically appealing as it is effective. Mulch retains soil, helping roots to grow stronger, while deterring bugs and preventing weed growth. And many gardeners find mulch adds visual appeal their garden, and does so in a very inexpensive way. Clean your tools. Beginners rarely recognize the importance of cleaning gardening tools before putting them away. At the end of each gardening session, clean your tools thoroughly, as soil left on your garden tools can play host to potentially harmful microbes that might kill your plants. Gardening can be a laborintensive yet gratifying hobby. By sticking to a few simple rules, beginners can develop a thriving garden to reward all of that hard work.

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March 31, 2013 • The Herald-Sun

Tackle flying pests in the yard The warmer months provide ample opportunities for outdoor entertaining or simply enjoying time spent in the yard as a family. But moments in the fresh air and sunshine can be negatively affected by the presence of flying, buzzing or biting bugs. When the weather warms, insects that may have been dormant during the winter begin to exit their dens and reproduce in earnest. Many insects overwinter as eggs and larvae, and multitudes break their dormancy at the same time as host plants. Beetles, flies, gnats, bees, mosquitoes, termites, butterflies, moths, and many other bugs can be seen in abundance in the spring. While there are people who enjoy bugs’ presence as true harbingers of the new season, others who are less enamored with flying insects, especially when they make time outdoors into an exercise in discomfort. Homeowners concerned about the presence of flying insects in their yard can take various steps to manage sharing outdoor spaces with insect life. PREVENTION Different varieties of insects begin their lives as eggs that may hatch into nymphs or worm-like creatures known as larvae. Oftentimes, these eggs are deposited in water or in damp areas. Mosquito larvae, for example, thrive in stagnant water before they turn into winged, biting insects. Keeping outdoor areas free of standing water and ensuring proper drainage are two ways to reduce the population of certain bugs in the yard. Welcoming animals, such as birds and bats that feed on a trove of insects, to the yard can

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naturally keep insect numbers down. Flies lay about 50 to 100 eggs at one time. The eggs will hatch into maggots in as little as 12 hours after being deposited. Keeping yards free from decaying matter, especially around entertaining areas, can limit the number of flies in the yard. TRAPS There are a variety of different traps on the market geared toward different insect life. Most use some sort of attractant, whether a scent or light to lure the insects to the trap. Then the bugs fall inside and cannot get out. Although there are some chemical-based traps or bug “zappers,� there are other more natural traps and more humane options, too. Setting traps away from patios and living spaces will lure the insects to the traps and keep them away from you. Once the trapped insects expire, you can bury them in the ground to naturally decompose. Setting traps out very early in the season will help to trap as many emerging insects as possible. You also may be able to trap the queens of certain insects, like bees or wasps, further reducing the number of bugs you will see throughout the year. REPELLENTS Repellents are natural or chemically derived formulas that are worn or placed in proximity to people. These repellents want insects to find them. Once found, the repellents’ smell or taste is deemed questionable by the

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SCREENS If you spend ample time outdoors, especially at dusk, then investing in a screened-in room may be the way to go. This way you can enjoy the weather while the insects stay on the other side of the screen. In climates where three-season swimming is possible, some homeowners actually create screened-in rooms that encompass their entire pool. BENEFICIAL BUGS Insects like butterflies and bees are the unsung heroes of the landscape, as they are responsible for pollinating many flowers and plants. Honeybees and bumblebees will generally keep to themselves if their nests are not disturbed and can actually be enjoyable to watch as they buzz from flower to flower. Wasps, like yellow-jackets, can be attracted to sweet smells, so keeping sugary drinks and foods covered can keep them at bay. Or you may want to lure them to another area of the yard with a bit of raw meat or a can of fruit punch. Sharing outdoor living spaces with flying insects can be aggravating. But there are many options at a homeowner’s disposal to control such unwanted guests.

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