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SPRING HOME IMPROVEMENT

D2 SUNDAY, APRIL 14, 2013

THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

C l e a n a i r h e l p s w i t h h e a l t h y l iv i ng Air cleaners — a benefit to health, wallets By HEATHER JOHNSON hjohnson@nptelegraph.com

Experts say one of the most important improvements people should make to their homes can’t be seen. That’s the improvement of indoor air quality. “Spring is the perfect time to consider them — right before air conditioners start running,” said Brian Lusk, owner of Lusk Heating and Air Conditioning in North Platte. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, breathing contaminants can put people at risk for health problems such as sore eyes, burning in the nose and throat, headaches and fatigue. Other pollutants cause or worsen allergies, respiratory illnesses, heart disease, cancer and other serious long-term conditions. “People actually bring most of the contaminants into the house,” Lusk said. “When new carpet or furniture is put in, the chemicals on those things can stay in the home for a long time.” He said houses are being built more airtight for energy efficiency, which also makes it easy for pollutants to build up.

“Tighter built homes don’t have a lot of air exchange,” Lusk said. According to the EPA, installing a cleaner is one of the best ways to improve air quality in a home. There are a wide variety of types and sizes on the market. “Some purifiers are freestanding,” Lusk said. “They are available in the big box stores and aren’t overly expensive. The drawback is they only do one room.” He said the whole-house models cost more, but also do a better job. The standard electronic cleaners use wires to negatively charge air particles, which then stick to a positively charged collection cell. When the cell gets dirty, it can be washed in a dishwasher or bathtub. Lusk said some of the newer varieties are capable of doing more than just pulling dust out of the air. The Bryant Perfect Air Purifier is a good example. It also captures and kills dangerous bacteria, viruses and mold. “I’m a firm believer in it,” Lusk said. “We had a kid who had really bad asthma. We installed the purifier and redid some ductwork and he was able

to get off one of his medicines as a result. It’s also good for those with low immune systems.” The Bryant model isn’t cheap. Lusk said it typically costs $1,350-$1,500. The filters, which have to be replaced on average every nine months to a year, are $140 each. The cleaner is installed in the furnace and air conditioner duct system. Lusk said the key to the long-term performance of any purifier is proper maintenance. If filters aren’t changed often enough they can become clogged with dirt and diminish airflow. Lower quality cleaners, such as the standard oneinch thick filters, also tend to allow dust to build up on heat exchangers, cooling coils and other equipment. The dust works as an insulator and keeps heat from being transferred as efficiently as it should be — the result can be expensive. “When blowers get dirty and air slows down, more energy has to be run through them to heat or cool the house,” Lusk said. “That’s why higher quality filtration systems actually save people money on utility bills.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency: n Levels of indoor pollutants can be two to five times higher than outdoors n Most people spend 90 percent of their adult lives inside n 99 percent of the particles in the air remain airborne because they are so small n Household dust is present even in clean homes n Household dust can contain mold spores, bacteria, viruses, animal dander and other debris n 50 million people in the U.S. suffer from allergies n Allergic disease is the fifth leading cause of chronic disease among all ages n The average person inhales about 2,300 gallons of air per day

Basic city regulations: The city of North Platte asks several things of people who wish to build fences or hedges. n Most importantly, all fences, walls and hedges: 1) Must be placed on private property 2) May not be placed or project over into a public right-of-way n Responsibilities of the property owner: 1) Know where property lines are located 2) Obtain a fence permit prior to the construction of a fence 3) Fence inspections are required before construction —Source: City of North Platte

Heather Johnson / The North Platte Telegraph

Brian Lusk changes an air filter on April 4. He said air purifiers not only help improve indoor air quality, but they can also save money on utility bills.

Repairing an old fence, or building new By ANDREW BOTTRELL abottrell@nptelegraph.com

During the spring, many homeowners spruce up their fences, or tear down old fences and build new ones. But if you live inside the city limits of North Platte, you might not know you need a permit. You can apply for a permit at City Hall, 211 W. Third St., and will need a site plan, a legal description and will have to fill out an application. The cost of a fence permit in North Platte is $25. In general, fences in North Platte can’t be taller than 72 inches in the back yard, and 48 inches in the front yard of residential homes, however there are other stipulations. The city allows masonry walls, ornamental iron fences, woven wire fences, wood and plastic fences and hedges in the city limits. The city does not allow barbed wire fences, except in agriculturally-zoned land. No electric fences are allowed by city ordinance, either.

The city requires that all fences be on private property, and not on public right-of-ways. To find out where the public right-ofway is at your property, you can visit City Hall or ask the permit department. Establishing where that city right-of-way is, is part of the permit process. Fence permits and inspections are required before construction begins. Those who live on corners have to take extra care when constructing a fence or building a hedge. The city requires extra room on sight lines from streets, with set backs of 25 feet from the corner on each side at four-way intersections. Alley approaches have similar requirements. Also, fences on corner lots cannot exceed 36 inches in height, so that the fence doesn’t hinder the vision of drivers. Also beware of where fire hydrants are. The city requires a three-foot clearance around fire hydrants for any fences. The city’s permit department has lots of pam-

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Sprucing up an old fence or building a new one sometimes requires a permit from the city. phlets and guides to help first-time fence builders out. If you have questions

you can contact permit clerk Michelle Ragle at City Hall at 308-535-6724.


THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

SPRING HOME IMPROVEMENT

SUNDAY, APRIL 14, 2013

D3

Pr e v e n t i n g g a rd e n a n d l aw n p e s t s The first step to controlling moles, gophers is identifying them By HEATHER JOHNSON hjohnson@nptelegraph.com

Experts say if there’s one thing that can ruin the look of a yard or garden, it’s mounds of dirt left behind by burrowing rodents. Getting rid of the creatures can be a challenge. “We had a lot of moles around North Platte last year,” said Dave Boxler, entomology extension educator. “Their abundance goes hand-in-hand with their food source. We’ve also had high populations of white grubs.” Boxler said moles love to eat grubs. The invertebrates represent the larval stage of the masked chafer, otherwise known as the June bug. Boxler recommended applying a preventative treatment such as Merit Insecticide to lawns between mid-June and early July to curb the grubs. According to Boxler, the product is available at most lawn and garden centers and is often used by lawn care professionals. He said it’s safe to use around children and pets, but not in the garden. “In the gardens I would use a Sevin bait,” Boxler said. “Sometimes rototilling will also kill the larvae.” Chad Richardson, dis-

trict supervisor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said moles aren’t always the culprits behind unsightly yard holes. Sometimes, pocket gophers cause the problem. “A lot of people don’t know the difference between them,” Richardson said. “When they call us, the first thing we ask them to do is describe the damage and the diggings. Identifying the animal is the first step toward solving the problem.” According to the USDA, moles live in the seclusion of underground burrows and rarely surface. When they do, it’s often by accident. Moles make their dens in high, dry spots, but prefer to hunt invertebrates in soil that is shaded, moist and cool. They create a system of shallow tunnels to those hunting grounds. Richardson said the tunnel systems are the biggest giveaway that moles inhabit a lawn. That’s because moles ridge up the surface of the soil, making their trails easy to follow. “When people step on the ground in areas where there are tunnels, it will give way,” Richardson said. Moles leave volcanoshaped hills made up of clods of soil at the en-

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Experts say reducing populations of white grubs, such as this one, could also decrease the number of moles in yards. Moles and pocket gophers are the two primary rodents in Lincoln County responsible for digging up yards. trance to their passageways. They may be two to 24 inches tall. In contrast, Richardson said pocket gophers leave mounds up to two-feet in diameter. They are generally kidney-shaped and made of finely sifted soil. Gopher mounds also tend to be built in a line. Richardson said pocket gophers tend to be a rural pest because they prefer sandy conditions and feed on roots — especially those on alfalfa. He said keeping a clean yard void of weeds

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Above: Moles such as this one can wreak havoc in yards and gardens. Experts say decreasing their food supply, primarily white grubs, could make a difference. Left: Pocket gophers seem to cause destruction wherever they go. Experts say the best way to get rid of them is to trap them. with long root systems could help control gophers. According to Richard-

son, most farm and ranch stores also offer traps to control both kinds of pests. Information about

setting the traps and about the rodents in general is available by calling the USDA at (402) 434-2340.

Early spring lawn and garden care made easy By DIANE WETZEL dwetzel@nptelegraph.com

For those who have yard and garden spruce up on their spring-cleaning list, we talked to a local expert for some suggestions on how to get started. Jay Turnbull has owned and operated Turnbull Landscaping in North Platte for the past 20 years. Recently, Turnbull sat down between projects

As the spring season continues, consider putting in a compost pile to help eliminate waste and perk up gardens. “Composting is certainly worthwhile,” Turnbull said. “Everybody probably has a little corner where they can put up some chicken wire and make a basic composting pile. All you need is a place to receive stuff that receives oxygen.” Turnbull suggests creating a cylinder out of chicken wire, clipping the edges closed so it can be opened to turn the material for a basic compost pile. “My recommendation would be to set up four 4X4 wood posts and wrap them with chicken wire,” he said. “Use the clips so you can get in and turn it every two weeks.” According to Organic Gardening, to begin a compost pile, you will

to talk about lawn and garden care. There is a prevailing theory that grass should be cut very short at the first mowing of the season. “People think they need to mow the grass shorter in the spring and again in the fall,” Turnbull said. “That’s not a good idea. The grass plant is twothirds leaf and the rest is stem. If you mow it short,

Composting 101 need carbon rich “brown” material such as fall leaves, straw, dead flowers from the garden and shredded newspaper, along with nitrogen rich “green material, such as grass clippings, plantbased kitchen waste like vegetable peelings and fruit rinds (No meat scraps), and a shovelful or two of garden soil. In a place that is at least three feet long by three feet wide, spread a layer several inches thick of coarse, dry “brown” material, such as the straw, cornstalks or leaves where you want to build the pile. Top that with several inches of the “green” stuff. Add a thin layer of soil and another layer of “brown.” Moisten the three layers. Continue layering until the pile is three feet high. Don’t worry if it takes a

you stress the plant. We will have another freeze yet this year and that will really stress the stems. Mow your grass the same height you always do when you mow in the spring.” Turnbull said it’s not too soon to turn on the water, Water the lawn and plants once a week for at least an hour to really give them a good soaking.

while to get there, just keep adding to it. “There are various recipes for compost, but I do recommend adding a couple inches of dirt for every six inches of compost,” Turnbull said. “It gives it a bit of weight.” Take care when adding grass clippings, he noted, saying that they can pack down and block oxygen. “Mulched leaves are the best,” he said. “Remember what happens in a forest. The leaves fall and decompose and feed the trees.” Gather all your clippings from flowerbeds and gardens and run over them with a lawnmower to cut into smaller pieces to put on the compost pile. “If you remember to keep the compost moist and to turn it every two weeks, you will have a pretty good product within three months,” Turnbull said.

“It’s always better to do quality watering than quantity,” he said. “That means it’s better to water a lot once a week rather than water a little several times a week.” Soaking will encourage deep rooting in all plants, he said. It’s also time to begin cleaning out flowerbeds and shrubs. “Now is a good time to clean out woody shrubber-

ing plants,” Turnbull said. “Any plant that drops leaves should be thinned out by at least one-third. When new growth comes in, you will have a new, fresh plant.” Clean out perennial flowerbeds to prepare for spring plants, and consider recycling the debris instead of tossing it into a dumpster. “Just rake it all out onto the lawn and run the lawn-

mower over it and rake it back onto the flower bed,” he said. “It will benefit the plants by putting food back into the bed. You can generate about half the mulch you need from those clippings. Just add good wood chip mulch and leave it all on the surface.” The mulch will help hold in moisture and keep weeds down by cutting out light and will continue to feed the plants.


SPRING HOME IMPROVEMENT

D4 SUNDAY, APRIL 14, 2013

THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

Planters: ‘Thrillers, fillers & chillers’ Brighten up an empty space, add some color to your yard By ANDREW BOTTRELL abottrell@nptelegraph.com

Planters are a good way to spruce up your garden and add depth. A planter can also brighten up an empty space in the house or add color to your yard. When designing your planter, Penny Billingsley, owner of Garden Glove Garden Center and Landscaping in North Platte, said to remember “thrillers, fillers and chillers.” That means to layer your planter depending on its setting, with taller items,

such as ornamental grasses in the center of a planter that will be seen from all directions, or at the back of a planter against a wall. Depending on the environment your planter is in, you then design downwards to medium sized plants and smaller plants towards the edges. “If it’s viewed from all sides, you want the tall plants in the middle and then you’d plant your smaller plants around it,” she said. For example, she said you might have an ornamental

grass at the center of a planter and then decorate around it with petunias around the outside. The most important thing, however, as you go to design your planter is whether the planter will be in a shaded environment, or in a sun-filled environment. “If you put a plant that likes full shade [in a sunny location], it will burn up,” she said. “If they are in a house type setting where they aren’t getting any sun, I’d use a shade-loving plant. I would not put any sun loving plant in an area that would be enclosed, because they won’t bloom. They need the sun to bloom.” In terms of color, Billingsley said you can’t go wrong, and though she

might recommend certain colors to go with others, it’s really up to your taste. “Colors on the opposite side of the color wheel [go well together],” she said. “Really, it’s what people like. There aren’t any really wrong color combinations. I have customers who don’t like red, and won’t put red in their planters.” She said there are obvious color combinations that do go together such as yellow and blue or yellow and purple. Some basic colors, like yellow and white, will match up with almost any other color of flower. In general, colors from the opposite end of the color wheel go together the best. “If they are trying to create a more relaxed planter,

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Color and spacing add depth to a yard as shown in this photo. they would stay with blues, pinks, the softer colors,” Billingsley said. “If they

want something that’s exciting, then you do your bright [colors].”

Tips for planting in a container:

What to plant:

Spring has sprung. Thinking about veggie and herb gardening but don’t have a yard or live in an urban area? No worries. You can still join in and grow your own veggies and herbs in containers on a deck, patio, or balcony and reap a hefty harvest of fresh food for your dinner table. Plant breeders know that after taste, home gardeners want a high yield in a small space, so they’ve developed varieties that can grow in a small area, and even flourish in containers. Here’s 6 simple steps to get you started. n Time-saving transplants — When you’re ready to begin potting up vegetables and herbs, opt for transplants — seedlings that have already been started — rather than starting from seed. Transplants will buy you lots of time because they’re six weeks or older when you put them in the pot, and you’ll begin harvesting much sooner too. Bonnie Plants offers a wide variety of veggie and herb transplants, (many are compact varieties perfect for containers) available at garden retailers nationwide and grown near you. n Use a premium quality potting mix. Don’t skimp here. A quality mix holds moisture but drains well; giving plant roots the perfect balance of air, moisture, and stability to grow a great harvest. Read bag labels to look for quality ingredients like: aged (composted) bark, perlite, lime or dolomite, and sometimes moisture-holding crystals. Quality potting mix stays fluffy all season long. It does not contain actual dirt that would compact with frequent watering. n Pick the right pot. It should be affordable to buy and fill, but large enough to accommodate your plants as they mature. Almost anything can serve as a container — flower pots, pails, buckets, wire baskets, washtubs, window planters, even large food cans. Larger veggies, like tomatoes and eggplants, will need a larger container, at least 5 gallons for each plant. When in doubt, bigger is always better, the plants will look better and last longer because the roots will have more room to grow. Be sure the pot has a drainage hole in the bottom. And consider color: Dark colored containers will absorb heat that could possible damage the plant roots. If you must use dark colored pots, try painting them a lighter color. n Feed your plants. Even if your potting mix came with fertilizer already mixed in, you may need to feed your plants. Some potting mixes include just enough fertilizer to give plants a charge when they’re starting. Mixes designed to feed for several months run out sooner in hot weather with frequent watering. Add timed-release granules or try a soluble fertilizer such as the “little green jug” of Bonnie Plant Food for quick results. It’s organic in nature, environmentally friendly, an excellent food source for beneficial organisms in the soil and helps support healthy soil and overall plant growth. One jug of concentrate makes 64 gallons of product. n Put pots in a sunny spot. At least 6-8 hours is best. The sun drives energy for production and for making sugars, acids, and other compounds responsible for the fullest flavor. Make sure pots on a deck or porch get enough sunlight and move them to a sunny spot if shade encroaches. Without sun, the fruits will not ripen and the plants will be stressed. n Water regularly. Vegetables are at least 90% water. To produce well, they may need daily watering in hot weather since you can’t always rely on rain. Water plants at soil level and be sure to water before the sun goes down, leaves will need to dry before nightfall. —Source: www.bonnieplants.com

Be on the look-out for key words like: bush, compact, patio, baby, dwarf and space saver in their name, they’ll be a good bet. Just because a plant is bred to be small doesn’t mean the fruits will be small or the yield will be less. n All herbs. Any herb does well in a pot. n All greens. Collards, lettuce, mustard, Swiss chard and others are perfect for pots. You can mix them with flowers for an ornamental touch. Lettuces yield a surprising amount. Pick only the outer leaves to keep the harvest going. n Eggplant and peppers of all types make pretty summer pots. n Varieties like Husky Cherry Red, Patio, Bush Early Girl, Bush Goliath, and Better Bush are especially easy to manage in containers. n Squash and zucchini work in large pots such as half barrels. —Source: www.bonnieplants.com

Spring Home Improvement 2013  

Publication dedicated to spring home improvement, gardening and lawn care.

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