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D2 APRIL 2012


Ready, set, spring projects Area fix-it experts encourage homeowners to be ‘in repair mode instead of remodel’ By DIANE WETZEL


s the temperatures rise and the world begins to green up, thoughts often turn to sprucing up the homestead. Spring home improvements range from the simple (washing windows, replacing that pesky leaking faucet in the bathroom) to the more complicated (and expensive) projects.

The important thing is to plan ahead. “People should really talk to an expert before they jump into a project,” said local Ace Hardware store manager AJ Hunt. “They need to be thinking about what parts they are going to need and talk to a local expert if they have never done it before.” Do-It Center owner Dave Harrold suggests people think about the basics before jumping into any big projects. “I’m thinking caulking,” Harrold said. “You need to have your home weather-

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If your garage looking like a bit of a mess? Spring isn’t just a great time for cleaning and fix-it projects inside the house — it’s the perfect opportunity to get your garage, garden shed or other outbuildings organized for the summer.

ized before you paint or do any projects. Making your home more airtight will keep cool air in and hot air out and vice versa.” Think about things that come in a tube, he suggested. Caulking, roof patch and cement filler. “When a nice day comes along, grab an adjustable wrench and a screwdriver and wander around,” he said. “Tighten up those loose boards and loose screws that may have come loose during the winter. It’s a way of enjoying your home without doing a lot of work.” A preliminary look and

tightening up will reveal what projects need to be first on a homeowners list for spring projects, he said. “It will also help keep you in repair mode instead of remodel,” he said. “There is more than a subtle difference there. Preventive maintenance is not that difficult and could save you from some big bills later on. If a hinge on your gate is twisted, straighten it out, don’t wait for it to break.” Spring is a good time to check out the roof and gutters, making sure there are no leaks or potential for mold, checking out air conditioning units (better now

that when the temperature reaches the 90s) and checking outdoor faucets and hoses. Check sidewalks, porches and driveways for cracks in the cement. Now is also a good time to make sure lawn and garden equipment is ready for the season. “For those folks who are so inclined and have the skills, now is a good time to get out their trimmers, mowers and such to make sure they are in good shape,” Harrold said. Some low-cost do it yourself spring projects include: Washing windows — All that is really needed is some window cleaner or a mixture of white vinegar and water. For exterior windows, consider getting a pressurized washer. Cleaning windows is a good way to check for any potential damage done during the winter as well. You can use it to wash decks and dingy siding as well. Garage clean up — Spring is a good time to clean out and organize the space that is supposed to be used to house cars and outdoor equipment, not serve as a catch all for a year’s accumulation of stuff. Sort garage stuff by category, such as gardening, sports equipment, car clean up, etc., and think about installing shelving to organize. Use the handy pressure washer to clean the garage floor.

Building a new deck? Ideas to keep in mind Hiring contractors, digging hotlines, materials and more By ANDREW BOTTRELL

The key to building that new deck is doing what you want. But there are some things to keep in mind, whether you’ve hired a contractor, or you build it yourself. If you are hiring a contractor, Justin Zirnig, a salesman at The Associated Press Kildare Lumber, sugWhile real wood can be an excellent choice for a new deck, composite or synthetic gests getting them indecking can combine a finish that resists stains, scratches and mold with a natural-look- volved in the process as early as possible. ing, wood-grain pattern in deep, saturated colors inspired by the great outdoors. “If someone will build the deck for you, get that hired person involved in the very beginning, so there’s no confusion half way through,” he said. That ensures that you get the deck you’ve envisioned, and not the deck that they have. For do-it-yourselfers, there are two phone calls you need to make before you get started. The first is to the Nebraska Diggers Hotline, which you can call toll free at 1-800-331-5666. “Call your diggers hotline, because you don’t know where any of those lines are,” Zirnig said. “That’s one of the first things you want to do before you start building.” Second, you need to contact the municipality you live in to check for any codes, or variances you may need. Zirnig said North Platte doesn’t have a deck

code, but its safe to call the city before you start. Zirnig also recommended that any do-ityourselfer take a rough sketch in to any local lumber store, and get some help from the experts. “They can come to me with a rough sketch on a napkin,” he said. “They give me an idea of dimensions and then we go from there. I’ll show them options — there are tons of options. Different decks, different sizes, different styles.” The next step is determining what your budget is, and that will determine how much you can do, Zirnig said, including whether you go with a composite deck, or an all-wood deck. There isn’t a specific

type of wood more conducive to Nebraska weather, he said. “I’ll sell a lot of treated redwood and cedar decks,” he said. “We do more redwood and treated, is the most [common].” For example, treated wood is going to be the cheapest option, he said, but it will end up in you replacing more boards over the long run. If you are doing it yourself, there are a lot of rules of thumb to remember, which he said any lumber store can help you out with. Most of it’s based on the size of the deck. “Get really familiar with the material and building it correctly. You’ve got to have a lot of the specifics, and rules of thumb,” he said. “You’ve really got to research that. It’s got to be long-lasting and good.”

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APRIL 2012


Bugs, drought and disease, oh my! Weird weather may create unique issues for lawn, garden this summer By ANDREW BOTTRELL

Spring is here, the rains have started to fall, and homeowners are beginning to get out and survey their lawns and gardens. After a warm, dry winter, coming off an abnormally wet spring and summer in 2011, there are several things gardeners need to watch out for this spring. “The warm weather does not help our chances of breaking disease and insect cycles from growing year to growing year,” said David Lott, district horticulture extension educator with the West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte. “When we have a cold year that does help kill off insect populations, and also helps reduce plant disease risks that come along with that.” Lott said soil temperatures should be warmer this spring season, even though frost has been present some days, because the air temperature has stayed above normal. He also said soil will warm up quicker in these conditions, as well. Even with a downturn in temperatures in mid-April, as storms and a cold front came through, the University

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of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Center said it shouldn’t have a large effect on lawns, or gardens, unless night temperatures drop well below freezing. It also wasn’t enough to kill off some of the early weeds. According to a press release from the extension office on April 10, an advantage of the cool weather is that it can slow down weeds, though this current spell probably is not enough to kill them. While the winter months

have been relatively dry, with little precipitation, last spring and summer was unusually wet for west-central Nebraska. “Moisture in the spring can help slow down the spread of the grasshopper population, for instance. Which is helpful in that case,” Lott said. “Last year we had a plentiful crop of rose chafers that had the right conditions to expand in the Sandhills, because they require a sandy soil condi-

tion, and the environmental conditions were just right. They caused a lot of damage on home gardens and landscapes.” With the warm, dry winter, it’s possible that a higher than average number of insects survived the winter months, Lott said. He said gardeners can get a general sense of if any insects have survived by surveying plant debris or testing the top few inches of the soil. Though last spring and summer were wet, many areas have had the chance to dry out during the fall and winter months, and may require some moisture before gardeners begin to work. Lott said gardeners want 8 to 12 inches of soil to be moist before beginning to cultivate. With conditions as dry as they are, the soil may need to be watered before tilling. He cautions gardeners, however, to wait until the sitting water percolates before tilling. “If we have to water first, we need to water and let the water percolate through the soil and wait before we do anything else,” he said. Gardeners who have used compost, and have a cover crop are more likely to retain some moisture in the topsoil of their gardens, Lott said. Many area gardeners also experienced flooding conditions during the planting season in 2011, and that can have a big impact on the gardening season in 2012, as well. “The main thing to look for

is when we’ve had plant material under water or saturated soils is to watch the pattern of growth this spring as they break dormancy,” Lott said. Different species of plants are also affected differently by standing water, and saturated soils. For example, the cottonwood tree can sit in water and be OK, which is why many cottonwoods thrive near rivers and lakes. However, evergreens do not fair as well in saturated soils, and even worse under water, Lott said. Chemicals that may enter the runoff from upstream in flooding conditions, can also affect how annual plants and deciduous trees survive floods. Likewise, whether the water was flowing, or standing, can also have a large impact on whether or not the plant survived. The best thing, Lott said, is to wait and watch. “It can be agonizing,” he said. “[Homeowners and gardeners] want to do something. They want to find an answer. To respond and do the best they can. It’s hard to wait and it’s hard to watch, but that’s the best thing to do — wait and watch.” Wet years can also bring blight and powdery mildew, Lott said. That can be compounded in cities where you may have a privacy fence, which actually hinders the flow of air. That stagnant air can make conditions worse in high humidity years.

Propagation a cheap way to build garden plant collection The Associated Press

A creative sideline for gardeners is plant propagation, or enhancing the landscape through reproduction. It’s also a cheap way to fill flowerbeds and herbal containers while prices continue to climb. Methods of propagation range from seed sowing to grafting, and all require varying degrees of skill. “For propagation, you don’t need an education but you may need some guidance,” said Ken Druse, author of the new “Making More Plants: The Science, Art and Joy of Propagation” (Stewart, Tabori and Chang). “Most often, though, it’s all about starting plants from seeds.” Seeds are an economical way to grow in bulk, even if you must buy them in commercially prepared packets. “Getting your seeds from a proven source is a good way to ensure high production,” Druse said. Here is a propagation glossary, describing the most commonly used methods: „ Sowing seeds:

Druse starts his seeds in 3½-inch pots, topping the soil with fine sand. “Moist soil is a great medium for seeds but also for fungus, which can kill a great many sprouts in just a couple of weeks,” he said. “Gravel is not a hospitable medium for fungus.” „ Stem, leaf or root cuttings: Pieces of the parent plant are cut and placed in water or a suitable growing medium until roots develop. They become clones, or junior versions of the originals and soon are ready for transplanting. „ Layering: A practice usually done with woody plants where living stems are placed on the ground with their tips forced downward. They receive nourishment from the parent plants while roots form on the planted ends, enabling them to eventually be separated and grow unaided. „ Grafting: Branches are removed from one woody plant and secured to another until they “take” or begin to grow. That unites certain desirable characteristics from one plant — say hardiness, dwarfing or faster fruiting —

with those of its host. Apple trees commonly are grafted, as are Japanese maples. „ Dividing: Perennials should be divided once they outgrow their sites. That improves their health, bulks up foliage and produces more flowers. “Depending upon the species, these divisions may grow to be as large as the original plant by season’s end: more plants for free,” Druse said. “Sowing seeds, cuttings and division are the most prevalent forms of propagation done by home gardeners,” said Rosie Lerner, an extension consumer horticulturist with Purdue University. “It’s a

little work but well worth the effort. It’s a matter of knowing which parts of the plants to split off and divide. Many have a high degree of success.” And then there are plant swaps, which add a social component to garden building. Be careful of those pass-along plants from neighbors and friends, though — the kind they’re willing to trade because they have so many. Some could be infested with mites, while others may be invasive. “Some plants are thugs,” Druse said. “Anything so easy to propagate may not be that great to have around your yard.”

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The Associated Press

Plant seedlings are shown in this photo taken March 26, 2009 in New Market, Va.,. A great creative sideline for gardeners is plant propagation, or enhancing the landscape through reproduction. It’s also a cheap way to fill flowerbeds and herbal containers.



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D4 APRIL 2012


Spring’s hot color for homes? Tangerine Cheerful reddish-orange great for everything from accents to walls The Associated Press

Bold, dramatic and invigorating, Tangerine Tango is dancing its way into home decor trends in 2012 with a punch of reddish-orange panache. The hue is a vivacious alternative to last year’s cheery honeysuckle, and design experts say it’s easy to incorporate into any home. Pillows, bedspreads and tabletop accessories in this high-impact color can add spice to any room. Or add tangerine appliances and personal electronics for an unexpected pop of color, says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Institute, the research arm of the Carlstadt, N.J.based Pantone Inc., which sets color standards for the home and fashion industries. “It’s the perfect color to move us out of the dull and dreary winter months and into spring,” says Sabrina Soto, host of HGTV’s “The High Low Project.”

Paint/Wallpaper One easy and inexpensive way to brighten up your home and stay on top of the trends is to paint an accent wall in this hot hue. A bit gun-shy of a tangerine living room? Secondary rooms, such as powder rooms and entryways, are perfect places to experiment with bold colors, Soto says. “Surprise your guests with walls that pop,” she says. Wallpaper by Pennsylva-

nia-based York Wallcoverings dives head-first into the tangerine trend with a variety of luminescent, metallic gold patterns set against spicy orange backgrounds. New Jersey-based Thibaut Design offers wallpaper in ornate, intricate, Jacobean paisleys and fanciful plumed birds in this year’s color, as well as less dramatic florals set against a cream background.

Furniture A lacquered side table or club chair and ottoman are small yet powerful ways to pop this color into a room through furniture. “Sometimes the most subtle of gestures are the most outstanding,” says Laura Dailey, vice president of merchandising with Atlanta-based Ballard Designs. “Use it on a smaller piece of furniture ... it’s like what a tie does to a suit, that standalone piece that makes such a grand statement.” A dark reddish orange, tangerine goes well with neutrals like grays and beiges, as well as with distressed wood finishes, and can be worked into virtually any era, from Arts and Crafts to modern minimalism. Designer Suzanne Kasler, who partners with Ballard, used a heavy tangerine linen from the European-inspired home furnishings retailer to upholster a pair of tufted slipper chairs that are pictured with nautical accents including a seashell-lined mirror, rattan baskets and

large glass lanterns. A similar tufted chair can be found on Ballard’s site starting at $199 ( CB2 makes a parlor chair in “atomic orange” ( for $699, as well as a blood orange “knitted pouf ” that Soto likes as a small seat or ottoman. She also recommends West Elm’s cast-aluminum Martini side table that retails for $123 ( and can double as a coffee table when paired in twos or threes.

Accents Persian rugs, dishtowels, candlesticks and vases are all fun, inexpensive ways to bring tangerine into your home through accent pieces. “Try some fresh new towels in your bathroom,” Soto says. “This fun color is the perfect contrast to white tile and porcelain.” She also likes an orangeand-cream stoneware vase from Target at $24.99 (, and orange porcelain mini bowls from Crate and Barrel ( for a pop of color in the kitchen at $1.95 each. For lighting, Anthropologie offers a stacked glass table lamp ($298) a la 1970s kitsch in citrus shades (, while a more modern shape can be found in the orange dome pendant by Kartell, for $263 ( Throw pillows in a variety of tangerine-esque shades are everywhere, including traditional stores like Linens ‘N Things, for $69.99 ( and more untraditional ones like specialty lighting retailer Lamps

Plus, for $78.91 ( Soto reminds homeowners not to forget simple touches like a bouquet of fresh orange tiger lilies or gerbera daisies. “A glossy, lacquered, redorange serving tray can be the perfect punch of color for your ottoman or coffee table,” she says.

The Associated Press

In this image released by York Wallcoverings, an Arabella in Metallic Gold on Orange Spice wall pattern is shown. Bold, dramatic and invigorating, Tangerine Tango is dancing its way into home decor trends in 2012 with a punch of reddish-orange panache. The hue is a vivacious alternative to last year’s cheery honeysuckle.

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