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Spring

Home & Garden

A 2017 special supplement by


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April 5 & 6 , 2017

Spring Home & Garden

www.unifiednewsgroup.com

The benefits of hiring professional contractors

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he DIY movement has inspired many homeowners to tackle home repair and remodeling projects on their own. DIY projects can be rewarding, and many homeowners who have embraced the DIY movement have discovered talents they never before knew they had.

Professional contractors bring experience to the job

Experience A trial and error approach can work with various projects and problems. But applying such an approach to home improvement projects is risky and potentially dangerous, not to mention costly. Experienced professional contractors with strong track records (seek recommendations from friends or neighbors) won’t have to go through trial and error and are therefore more likely than DIYers to complete a project on time and on budget.

to do it for you, but that’s not necessarily true of home improvement projects. Labor costs typically account for a substantial amount of professionally contracted projects, but homeowners can cut those costs by volunteering to do some of the simpler tasks themselves. In addition, contractors often purchase materials at a much lower cost than individual homeowners because contractors buy in bulk. So while labor costs might be lower on DIY projects, the cost of materials can offset those savings.

Inspiration One oft-overlooked benefit of working with professional contractors is the likelihood that they can draw up ideas for projects that homeowners might otherwise never have thought up on their own. Homeowners without specific ideas in mind can ask contractors to come up with various scenarios before committing to a particular one. Veteran contractors can draw on years of experience to create designs that DIYers might be incapable of coming up with and/or incapable of seeing through to completion.

Resale value Many homeowners renovate their homes with eyes on improving the resale value of those homes. But if homeowners want to showcase

But no matter how simple popular home renovation television shows make remodeling projects appear, homeowners should know that such undertakings are far more difficult than they appear. Homeowners who overestimate their abilities and the time they have to complete projects can cost themselves substantial amounts of money. In fact, there are a variety of reasons homeowners might want to work with pro- Cost Conventional wisdom suggests fessional contractors when tackling it’s less expensive to do something home improvement projects. yourself than to hire someone else

STRUGGLING TO FIND A NEW HOME?

a newly remodeled kitchen when selling their homes, they should be prepared for prospective buyers to ask who worked on the project. Fearing potential problems down the road, some buyers might be put off by homes that were remodeled by DIYers and not professional contractors. Renovating a home on your own can be a rewarding project for homeowners. But it’s important that homeowners recognize the many benefits of working with professional contractors before making any final decisions with regard to who will tackle their next project.

Did you know? Many homeowners have lofty goals for their homes. Such plans may include extensive renovations or even additions. While many of these projects create beautiful changes in a home, it’s important to consider the impact that renovations can have on property value before beginning a project. Many home improvement projects do not add as much value as homeowners may think they do. In fact, some homeowners “overbuild” for their neighborhoods. This means the amount of money invested in improvements can likely never be recuperated because the house value simply exceeds those around by too much money. To avoid overbuilding, homeowners can ask themselves several questions before beginning a renovation project: • Will my house be the largest house in the neighborhood? Larger homes tend to have a lower price per square foot, so you may not want to improve to this extent. • Will the house blend with others in the area? If your house will stick out like a sore thumb, it will detract from its own value and could impact the value of other homes in the area. • Have I examined the cost vs. value of the project? Many home improvement resources analyze the cost of a project versus the overall value of that project with regard to property value. For example, a $100,000 basement remodel may not add $100,000 to the value of the home in the event you choose to sell down the line. It’s important to know which projects provide the best return on investment.

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Spring Home & Garden

3 tips to prepare to sell your home A

ccording to Realtor.com, spring is the busiest and best season to sell a home. While a good home can find a buyer any time of year, homeowners might find the buyers’ pool is strongest in spring and into summer. The reasons for that are many, ranging from parents wanting to move when their children are not in school to buyers wanting to move when the weather is most accommodating. Because spring is such a popular time to sell a home, homeowners who want to put their homes on the market should use winter as an opportunity to prepare their homes for the prying eyes of prospective buyers. The following tips can help homeowners during the pre-selling preparation process.

address any issues that arose during the winter. Homeowners with green thumbs can tackle such projects on their own, but hiring professionals is akin to staging inside the home.

2. Conquer interior clutter. Clutter has a way of accumulating over the winter, when people tend to spend more time indoors than they do throughout the rest of the year. Homeowners who want to put their homes on the market in spring won’t have the luxury of waiting until spring to do their “spring” cleaning, so start clearing any clutter out in winter, even resolving to make an effort to prevent its accumulation throughout the season. Just like buyers are impressed by curb appeal, they are turned off by clutter. The Appraisal Institute suggests homeowners clear clutter out of their homes before appraisers visit, and the same approach can be applied to open houses. Buyers, like appraisers, see cluttered homes as less valuable. In addition, a home full of clutter might give buyers the impression, true or not, that the home was not well maintained.

1. Address the exterior of the home. Winter can be harsh on a home’s exterior, so as winter winds down, homeowners who want to sell their homes should make an effort to address anything that might negatively affect their homes’ curb appeal. A study of homes in Greenville, S.C., from researchers at Clemson University found that the value of homes with landscapes that were upgraded from “good” to “excellent” increased by 6 to 7 percent. If it’s in the bud- 3. Eliminate odors. A home’s inhabitants grow accustomed to odors that might be circulatget, hire professional landscapers to fix any problematic landscaping or ing throughout the house. Pet odor, for instance, might not be as strong to a home’s residents as it is to guests and prospective buyers. Because windows tend to stay closed throughout the winter, interior odors can be even stronger come late-winter than they are during the rest of the year. A thorough cleaning of the house, including vacuuming and removal of any pet hair that accumulated over the winter, can help to remove odor. In the weeks leading up to the open house, bathe pets more frequently, using a shampoo that promotes healthy skin so pet dander is not as prevalent. Open windows when the weather allows so more fresh air comes into the home. Spring is a popular and potentially lucrative time to sell a home, and homeowners who spend winter preparing their homes for the market may reap even greater rewards.

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Expect the unexpected when renovating a home

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Home renovations can lead to home repairs

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• Dirt and noise: Homeowners can count on dust, debris and noise throughout the renovation process. Dust appears when walls come down or go up, and construction teams typically erect temporary walls or tarps to contain the debris. Air filtering systems also can limit

dust particles. Noise is unavoidable. If it becomes troublesome, arrange to be outside of the home when the bulk of the construction is taking place. • Delays or schedule changes: Even the best contractors cannot control every aspect of the job. They rely on subcontractors and vendors to do portions of the work. Materials may not always arrive on time, or they may fall short of homeowners’ expectations. This can push back the project schedule. Homeowners should hope for everything to be done on time, but it can be less stressful if homeowners anticipate delays and be a pleasant surprise if there are no delays. • Hidden issues: Contractors may uncover all sorts of issues that need to be addressed before a project can progress. Examples include the presence of asbestos (common in older homes), plumbing problems, incorrectly wired electrical systems, and leaks or moisture issues. These problems also can impact the cost of the project, so set aside some money in the budget for unforeseen expenses. Chances are you are going to need some extra money to handle a few surprises during the project. It’s important to expect the unexpected when embarking on home renovations. Budgeting for hidden costs, expecting delays and coping with the upheaval to daily schedules are par for the remodeling course. However, the end result is often well worth the time and effort.

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ccording to projections released in 2015 by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, a growing number of people in the United States planned to renovate their homes in 2016. The report estimated that spending on remodeling and repairs in 2016 would climb 8.6 percent to $310 billion, a figure that is close to the peak reached in 2006. While it is still too soon to tabulate all of the figures from 2016, a quick glance at the data indicates renovations have increased across the country. And one only need travel through communities to see a greater number of contractors and homeowners working on homes. Tackling any renovation project is an exercise in patience. Renovations can impede on daily activities and cause a certain level of upheaval in homeowners’ lives. Homeowners planning renovations also may find that they must have some wiggle room when it comes to both their budgets and their expectations. Remodeling, particularly with regard to older homes, may unveil unforeseen issues that only arise in the face of the renovation. What can homeowners expect during a renovation? The following are a few issues that might arise during home improvement projects.

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5

Spring Home & Garden

Home safety checks to complete today

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or frayed wires on all electrical devices. Be new kitchen or a bathroom remodelsure that cords do not run under doorways ing job might be dream projects for or rugs. Replace outlets that are in disrepair many homeowners, but the right home and install ones with ground-fault current improvement project at a given moment is not interrupters as an added precaution. If small necessarily the most glamorous. Sometimes children live in the home, use plastic safety safety upgrades around the house must take precovers over unused outlets. cedence over more popular projects. Accidents or injuries can occur in any part • Practice window safety. Young children of the home, but homeowners who take certain are curious and do not always recognize preventative measures can greatly reduce their the inherent dangers around them. Children injury risk. The security resource A Secure Life excited to see the great outdoors may climb points out that more than 18,000 Americans die up to peer out windows, and open windows every year from injuries that take place in the are falling hazards. Screens do not offer an home. Unintentional injuries account for miladequate barrier against falls. Consider locklions of medical visits each year. Home injuing windows or use safety bars to guard ries also are prevalent elsewhere in the world. against falls. Test to see how easily screens In the United Kingdom, the Royal Society for can be pushed out, replacing any that do the Prevention of Accidents reports that there not provide adequate resistance to curious are approximately 6,000 deaths every year that youngsters’ hands. result from accidents at home. • Check smoke and carbon monoxide detecPeriodic inspections for potential hazards can tors. Replace the batteries in smoke alarms keep everyone safe. The following are a handful and carbon monoxide detectors at least twice of ways for homeowners to ensure their homes per year, and test them to make sure they’re are as safe as possible. in good working order at least once per • Check for sturdy handrails and prevent month. The National Fire Protection Assotripping hazards. Falls are one of the leadciation recommends replacing hard-wired ing causes of home injuries. Falls can be smoke alarms every 10 years. Battery-opa particular threat for youngsters and the erated alarms may need to be replaced even elderly. To help prevent falls, make sure Check faulty wiring and replace any outlets that are not sooner. Many carbon monoxide detectors that staircases feature sturdy railings and working. work for five to seven years. Check the back that there is ample lighting in walkways. of alarms for a date stamp that indicates how Remove obstructions from frequently used • Check for frayed wires or faulty outlets. old the product is and when it expires. Address any electrical problems around the paths inside and outside the home. In addihouse, including frayed wiring and faulty Safety checklists are an important part of home tion, insert nonslip padding beneath runners outlets. Sparks can lead to fires, and poor maintenance. A proactive approach can prevent or throw rugs. wiring may cause unforeseen problems both injuries and damage to the home. behind walls. Repair or replace any loose

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April 5 & 6 , 2017

Spring Home & Garden

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How to make existing windows more energy efficient

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rafty windows make homes less comfortable by allowing cold air potentially expensive route, homeowners can consider the following stratin during the winter and warm air in when temperatures rise. But egies to improve the energy efficiency of their windows. comfort is not the only concern associated with leaky windows, • Hang curtains. Curtains can help homeowners cut down on heatas such fixtures also can have a negative impact on the environment. ing and cooling costs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy Leaky windows require heating and cooling systems to work harder to (DOE), properly hung draperies can reduce heat loss by as much as keep home interiors comfortable during times of the year when tempera25 percent. In the summer, curtains can block the hot rays from the tures can be extreme. In the dead of winter, a leaky window will force a sun from entering a home, reducing the need to turn up air conditionhome’s inhabitants to turn up the thermostat, which only increases energy ing units. While curtains won’t fix leaks or block hot or cold air from consumption and energy bills. The same scenario plays out in summer, entering a home, they can serve as a buffer between a home’s inhabiwhen leaky windows allow hot air in, leading homeowners to lower the tants and the air seeping in through leaks. temperature of air conditioning units so everyone inside is cool and com• Caulk or add weather stripping. Small cracks and gaps around fortable. windows, which are most often found in older buildings, might not Thankfully, making windows more energy efficient does not necessarseem like a big deal, but such breaches can lead to considerable enerily require homeowners to replace existing windows. Before going that gy loss. The DOE recommends using caulk to seal cracks that are less than 1/4-inch wide on the parts of the window that do not move (i.e., frames and where the trim meets the wall). Caulk might be less effective at fixing leaks larger than 1/4 inch in width. Employ weather stripping to address leaks on movable parts of the window. Properly applied weather stripping should adequately seal windows when they are closed without making it difficult to open or close them later on. Weather stripping is available in various materials, and homeowners can visit www.energy.gov/energysaver/weatherstripping to find the material that’s most suitable for their situation. • Install windows films. Plastic window films are another option for homeowners looking to improve the energy efficiency of their windows. Heat shrink film can be cut to fit each individual leaky window in a home and then attached to windows using double-sided tape. A hair dryer can then be used to shrink the film and remove any wrinkles. Low-emissivity, or Low-E, coatings are a more expensive alternative to heat shrink film, and they can be equally effective at improving energy efficiency. Installation of Low-E coatings can be more difficult, as they do not provide as much leeway for mistakes during application as heat shrink film. Leaky windows are bad for homeowners’ energy bills and the environment. But homeowners have options other than full window replacements to fix leaks and improve efficiency.

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Spring Home & Garden

7

What to look for during roof inspections roof. Water stains do not always Get to the root of issues with your arrives. A thorough inspection can indicate problems with the roof- home’s roof before they become reveal problems that may prove ing, but it’s better to be safe than b i g g e r p r o b l e m s o n c e w i n t e r costly if ignored. sorry. • Look for protective granules wearing off. If gutters are filled Steps to take before an appraiser’s visit with the sandy granular mateHomeowners unfamiliar with the appraisal process might not know if there is rial that coats roofing shingles, anything they can do to make the process go more smoothly. While certain varithat may be a sign of an aging or ables involved in the appraisal process, such as location of the home and the valdamaged roof. ue of surrounding homes, are beyond homeowners’ control, the Appraisal Insti• Inspect flashing. Professional tute recommends homeowners take the following steps before an appraiser visits roofers can recognize properly their home. installed flashing, the material • Clean the house. A dirty home that is full of clutter will not make the best that connects the roof to other impression on appraisers. Dirty homes may be vulnerable to insect infestaparts of the house that adjoin tions that can lead to structural problems with the home. While a dirty home the roof, like skylights or chimis not necessarily an indicator of infestations or a reflection of a home’s value, neys. Poorly installed flasha clean home will create a stronger first impression with the appraiser. ing can cause leaks. Stains that • Make any necessary repairs ahead of the appointment. Homeowners who appear below chimneys or near have been putting off repairs should make them before the appraiser arrives. attic windows may indicate new Homes with repairs that still need to be made will likely be valued less than flashing, and not new shingles, similar homes with no such repair issues. Though repairs can be costly, inis needed. vesting in home repairs will likely increase both the appraisal and resale value of the home. • Gutters and downspouts • Obtain all necessary documents before the appraiser arrives. Homeownshould be in good condition. A ers who have certain documentation at the ready can speed up the appraisal roof is the sum of its parts, and process. Such documentation may include a survey of the house and property; that includes downspouts and a deed or title report; a recent tax bill; if applicable, a list of items to be sold gutters. If the gutters are clogged with the house; purchase history of the home; and the original plans and specor damaged, they cannot direct ifications of the home. water away from the house • Inform the appraiser about recent improvements. Homeowners can inproperly. Snow, leaves and other form appraisers about any recent improvements to the home and the cost debris needs to be cleared from of those improvements. The value of home improvements with regard to a gutters to help them function at home’s appraisal value vary depending on a host of variables, but having such optimal capacity. information at the ready can help appraisers make the most informed apprais• Animals and insects can cause al possible. damage, too. It’s not just poor weather that homeowners need to consider with regard to roof damage. Boring insects and animals may cause problems with roofs as well. A roof inspection may shed light on potential pest problems. Holes or nesting materials may indicate that an animal or animals are using the attic as a shelter from the elements.

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old weather can be tough on a home, and perhaps no part of a home is more vulnerable to harsh winter weather than its roof. Fallen snow can equate to several pounds of pressure placed on a residential roof. Roofs do not often collapse under heavy snowfall, but adverse winter weather conditions can compromise roofs in other ways. Water leakage and damage to the roof’s interior are just two of the potentially problematic issues that can arise when roofs are battered by cold, blustery weather. That’s why many home improvement specialists advise homeowners to conduct roof inspections prior to the start of winter. Many homeowners can conduct their own cursory roof inspections, but they may not know exactly what to look for. The National Roofing Contractors Association says that there are certain key areas to inspect that may reveal some telltale signs of roof damage. • Curled, cracked or missing shingles may prove troublesome. Inclement weather can test the strength of even the most durable roofs. Even though many roofs are designed to last up to 30 years, some may need to be replaced early, particularly when they have been exposed to harsh weather over a period of years. Individual shingles can be replaced as spot treatments, but if the damage is widespread, a new roof may be necessary. • Attic leaks or water elsewhere might signal issues with the roof. Figure out if water inside the home is coming from the


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Spring Home & Garden

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Create a safe and enjoyable backyard play area

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Safety is a priority when designing a play area

according to Parachute, a national injury prevention organization. When considering playground equipment for the yard, parents need to make safety a priority. The Canada Safety Society advises parents to follow the “5 S’s of Playground Safety”: Surface, structures, site, supervision and safety.

• Surface: Parents should assume that children will fall. To lessen the blow of falls, choose playground equipment with a perimeter of six feet of a softer surface, such as sand, pea gravel, rubber pieces or wood chips. This material should be between six and 12 inches deep.

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• Structure: The structure of the play equipment should be built from sturdy materials. Pressure-treated lumber was once the standard, but it’s not adviseable for kids’ playgrounds, as the chemicals used in the lumber can leach and young children may actually bite or pick at the wood. Use cedar or another wood that resists decay. Once the structure is built, inspect it frequently for damage. • Site: Look around the landscape for an ideal place to locate the playset. There should be no obstacles that children can hit while sliding or swinging. Avoid overhanging branches and do not place equipment too close to trees or fencing. Try to keep the set out of direct sunlight, which can make components heat up and scald young bodies. • Supervision: Do not leave children alone while they are playing. Prevent children from using the playset in an incorrect manner. • Safety: Follow the directions for installation. Make sure all posts are anchored into the ground securely. Railings should be spaced so that children cannot get stuck between them. Check that metal components have not rusted and that there is no additional excessive wear. Be sure that no tools or other dangerous items are left around the yard. Backyard playgrounds should be built with safety in mind. Learn the rules of play equipment and yard safety.

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omeowners often aspire to have attractive backyards that look like they belong in a magazine. While these can be picturesque and functional for adults, they may not be entirely practical for homeowners who have young children, especially when the majority of the yard is covered with paving stones or concrete. When young children are part of a household, homeowners may benefit by designing yards that are both functional and fun. Incorporating safe play areas for kids is one way to unlock the potential of both big and small backyards. As children run off to enjoy a playground, safety is the last thing on their minds. Kids are most interested in scaling ladders to treehouses or coasting down slides. That’s why adults must take it upon themselves to keep injury prevention in mind. SafestPlayground.com indicates that playground-related injuries routinely result in severe fractures, internal injuries, concussions, and dislocations. In the majority of playground injuries to children younger than age 5, the head and face are affected. Children between the ages of 5 and 9 experience more leg and arm injuries than younger kids. The Consumer Product Safety Commission states 70 percent of children’s injuries occur on home playgrounds. More than 28,000 children are injured each year on playgrounds across Canada,

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April 5 & 6 , 2017

Spring Home & Garden

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Post-winter garden prep awns and gardens can bear the brunt of winter weather and are often in need of tender loving care by the time spring

arrives. Preparing a garden for spring and summer involves assessing any damage that harsh weather might have caused. As temperatures climb, gardeners can heed the following post-winter garden preparation tips in an effort to ensure some successful gardening in the months ahead. • Assess the damage. Even if winter was mild, gardens might still have suffered some damage. Inspect garden beds and any fencing or barriers designed to keep wildlife from getting into the garden. Before planting anew, fix any damage that Mother Nature or local wildlife might have caused over the past several months. • Clear debris. Garden beds and surrounding landscapes that survived winter without being damaged might still be littered with debris. Remove fallen leaves, branches and

Plant diseases can be minimized with a thorough cleaning

Spring gardening season is right around the even litter that blew about on windy winter days before planting season. Make sure to corner, so now is an ideal time to prepare gardiscard any debris effectively so it does not dens for the warmer seasons ahead. find its way back into the garden. • Turn the greenhouse into a clean house. Spring cleaning is not just for the interior of a home. Cleaning a greenhouse in advance of spring can help gardeners evict any overwintering pests that can threaten plant life once spring gardening season arrives. A thorough cleaning, which should include cleaning the inside of greenhouse glass and washing flower pots and plant trays, also can prevent plant diseases from surviving into spring. • Check for pests. Speak with a local gardening professional to determine if there are any local pests to look out for and how to recognize and remove these pets from gardens. Pests may hibernate in the soil over the winter, and such unwelcome visitors can make it difficult for gardens to thrive come spring and summer. • Assess plant location. If plants, flowers or gardens have struggled in recent years or never grew especially vibrant, then gardeners may want to assess the location of their plant life before spring gardening season begins. Some plants may not be getting enough sunlight in certain locations on a property, while others might be overexposed to the sun during spring and summer. Moving plants that are not thriving prior to the start of spring gardening season may be just what gardens need to flourish in the coming weeks. Consider the best location for plants in need of sunlight

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April 5 & 6 , 2017

Spring Home & Garden

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Weeding through lawncare service options

Items to avoid when composting

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illions of acres across North America are devoted to lush, green lawns. According to Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, lawns take up 40.5 million acres and individuals spend $30 billion on average for lawn and garden upkeep in the United States alone. People certainly love their lawns and often wonder if those lawns are best left in the hands of professionals. The National Gardening Association states that 72 percent of American households do some work in their yards. However, a growing number of homeowners also hire others to make their lawns look pristine. Homeowners who want to leave lawncare to the professionals can consider the following factors as they search for a company that best suits their needs. • Work with a licensed and insured company. Lawncare services that are licensed and insured provide more peace of mind to homeowners than the alternatives. Should an injury occur on your property while work is being done, an insured business will be able to take care of it and you won’t be liable. • Ask about membership in a professional or trade organization. Businesses that belong to an organization invest in continually learning about the evolution of lawncare. This increases the likelihood that member companies will be up-to-date regarding the latest, most environmentally friendly lawncare techniques. Participation in a trade organization also may indicate education in the landscaping field. • Research reviews before hiring. Although public reviews may not paint the entire picture and they often reflect only the very positive or very negative experiences previous customers have had with a given business, they can provide an idea of how a lawncare company interacts with its customers. Prospective customers who contact the Better Business Bureau may learn if there have

• • • •

Professional lawncare services offer expertise

been any glaring complaints against a particular contractor. • Find out which services are offered. Ask each business what services they provide. While nearly every lawncare contractor will mow the lawn and trim shrubs, many homeowners prefer companies that can adapt when the yard needs a change. This may include pest treatments, fertilization, aeration and seasonal cleanups. • Look for a company that’s organized and connected. Customer service should be a factor when choosing a lawncare service. You want to be able to reach the company promptly. A company that responds quickly is ideal, especially if you need to change a service or need to inquire about additional or emergency work. Shopping for a lawncare service can take time and effort, but the results will be well worth it when homeowners have lawns and landscapes that make their neighbors green with envy.

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Composting is an eco-friendly activity that can also save homeowners money on fertilizer and pesticides. Organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow, compost reduces the amount of waste that would otherwise end up in landfills, reducing the amount of methane gas that such landfills produce. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that not everything can be added to compost piles. The following are some items homeowners should not add to their compost piles or bins, courtesy of the EPA. • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs: Leaves or twigs from black walnut release substances that might prove harmful to plants. • Coal or charcoal ash: Coal or ash from charcoal, such as the ash that builds up in the bottom of charcoal grills, may contain substances that are harmful to plants. • Dairy products: When added to compost piles, dairy products, including butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt and eggs, can be malodorous and may attract pests, including rodents and flies. • Diseased or insect-ridden plants: The diseases and insects that plague plants may survive being transferred to compost piles. When the compost is ultimately distributed, these diseases and insects might then plague other plants. • Fats, grease, lard, or oils: Fats, grease, lard or oils also may attract rodents and flies, and that might be due to the unpleasant odors such substances can produce when added to compost piles. • Meat or fish bones and scraps: Like fats, grease, lard or oils, scraps from meat and fish and fish bones can smell unpleasant, potentially attracting rodents and flies. • Pet waste: Pet waste, including soiled cat litter, may contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses that can be harmful. • Grass trimmings treated with chemical pesticides: Trimmings from grass that was treated with chemical pesticides can negate the effects of composting by killing beneficial organisms produced within compost piles or bins.

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April 5 & 6 , 2017

Spring Home & Garden

11

Tips for novice composters

waste include grass clippings, weeds from he United States Environmental Protecannual plants and plant trimmings. Brown tion Agency notes that food scraps and materials include dead leaves and shredded yard waste account for between 20 and cardboard. Chop or shred large pieces before 30 percent of what we throw away. But thanks to adding them to the pile. composting, such waste can be put to work rather than discarded. • Give the pile structure. Layering materials Compost is organic material that helps plants can give compost piles better structure. The grow when added to soil. Benefitting the planEPA suggests burying fruit and vegetable et in myriad ways, compost enriches the soil by waste under 10 inches of compost material, helping it retain moisture. The EPA notes that including brown and green waste. composting reduces the need for chemical fer• Turn and aerate the pile. Using a garden tilizers while also suppressing plant diseases and fork, periodically turn the compost pile. This pests. In addition, when homeowners compost, aerates the heap and provides oxygen that they inadvertently reduce methane emissions can accelerate the decomposition of the pile. from landfills, thereby lowering their carbon Piles that are not periodically turned and aerfootprints. ated may grow malodorous, which can be Homeowners who do not know how to comunpleasant for homeowners who hope to add post can consider the following tips as they start materials to their piles on a regular basis. In compost piles on their properties. addition, without the heat produced by aera• Choose an accessible spot on your propertion, composting piles will break down very ty. When looking for a spot on your property slowly. for your compost bin, choose a location that’s • Recognize when the material is ready. The easily accessible. The less accessible the bin EPA notes that compost is ready to use when is, the less likely you are to stick with comComposting prevents waste materials at the bottom of a pile are dark and posting over the long-term. The EPA also rich in color. According to the EPA, this can recommends placing a compost bin or pile in be added to a compost pile. The EPA recomtake anywhere from two months to two years, a dry, shady spot near a water source. mends moistening dry materials as they’re so composters must be patient. • Add the appropriate materials. Animal added and adding brown and green materiMore information about composting can be waste, cooked foods, diseased plants and als as they are collected. Examples of green found at www.epa.gov. fresh weeds from perennial plants should not

Helpful and harmful insects Treehoppers: These small, green insects mimic the look of leaves, and their appetites can affect crops and gardens. Red pavement ant: As they feed on all manner of human food, these ants can quickly overtake areas with their staggering numbers and deliver painful bites. Grasshoppers: Certain grasshoppers, like the red-legged grasshopper, can decimate food crops and transfer parasites to birds when eaten as prey. Caterpillars: Many caterpillars, the precursor to adult moths, will feed constantly on leaves, stems and other parts of plants. The tobacco Harmful hornworm moth caterpillar can damage potato Certain insects can be dangerous to animals and tomato plants. and plants. The following are a handful of insects that can threaten the vitality of gardens. Helpful Aphids: These insects suck on the juice need- Plants depend on insects to transfer pollen as ed to sustain plants, particularly when they con- they forage, and many insects are quite benefigregate. cial to have around. While some pollinate, othBald-faced hornet: Hornets tend to be an ers are predators of other pests. aggressive species that can sting repeatedly. Antlion: A foe of ants, they’ll help eat and Should you find a nest near an entertaining space control ant populations and pollinate flowers. or garden, it can cause trouble. They pose no threat to humans, either. Carpenter ants: These ants will burrow into Big dipper firefly: These colorful insects feast wood causing damage. They may compromise on earthworms, slugs and snails during the larany wooden structure in and around a home. val stage. Fireflies add drama to evening gardens Locusts: Various species of locust can damage with their twinkling lights. plants and crops due to their voracious appetites. Although it’s virtually impossible to count them, insects are the most diverse group of organisms on the planet. Nine hundred thousand different kinds of insects are known to exist. At any given time, it is estimated that there are around 10 quintillion individual insects living. Gardeners grow frustrated when seeing their gardens infested with insects. In an effort to restore their gardens, homeowners might be tempted to eradicate any bug that moves in their yards. But gardeners would be wise to first learn which insects are hurting their gardens and which can actually help gardens in the long run.

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Garden spiders: Although some spiders can be venomous, many are quite handy to have around the garden. They’ll help control pest populations that can damage plants and crops. Dragonflies: These aerial artists that zip around the yard are consuming smaller insects that would otherwise pester plants and humans. Blue-winged wasp: This wasp attacks the larvae of Japanese beetles, helping to control beetle populations. Bees and butterflies: Butterflies and bees are some of the best pollinators out there, and each can add whimsy to gardens.


12 Spring Home & Garden - April 5 & 6, 2017

Free Expert Gardening Advice

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