A S pecial S ection of T he R ivertowns E nterprise â€“ A pril 20, 2012
Page 2A | The RIVERTOWNS ENTERPRISE
HOME & Garden
April 20, 2012
How does your cutting garden grow? With a lot of sun and a little imagination! By DEBRA BANERJEE
A special section of
The Rivertowns Enterprise 95 Main Street, Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522 (914) 478-2787 www.rivertownsenterprise.net
PUBLISHER Deborah G. White SECTION EDITOR Todd Sliss ART DIRECTOR Ann Marie Rezen ADVERTISING DESIGN Kathy Patti ADVERTISING SALES Marilyn Petrosa, Thomas O’Halloran, Barbara Yeaker, and Francesca Lynch ©2012 W.H. White Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is forbidden without the Publisher’s written permission.
ouldn’t it be nice if any time you needed a floral arrangement for your home you could simply go into the garden and pick what you needed? Well, you can! Having a cutting garden can be as simple as planting specimens in your foundation or landscape planting or as ambitious as a large backyard plot like a vegetable garden with flowers planted in neat rows. Sun is critical, experts agree. If you have a sunny spot and lots of time to devote to cultivating, 100 square feet of space would be ideal to carve out for a cutting garden, according to Al Krautter of Sprainbrook Nursery in Edgemont. “You want to prep your soil like you would any garden soil,” Krautter said. Krautter is the author of a new book called “12 Steps to Natural Gardening,” which gives the organic gardener tips from A to Z, including how to prepare the soil for flowers and other plants to flourish. Joey Vizioli, one of the owners of Cher-
ry Lawn Nursery in New Rochelle, believes a 48-square-foot garden with proper soil amendments “will give you adequate flowers through the blooming season.” Spraying and fertilizing are a must for “optimal flower and color yield,” he said. Annual dividends
Virginia Maybank, past president of the Bedford Garden Club and co-founder of Branch Out, a tree-planting project initiated by the garden club, incorporates her cutting garden into her vegetable garden, which measures about 20 by 40 feet. “That’s a good way to do it,” she said. Since she digs up her garden after the first frost, Maybank’s cutting garden is comprised of primarily annuals. She keeps her perennial garden separate. Maybank said there are some flowers Continued on the next page
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HOME & Garden
The RIVERTOWNS ENTERPRISE | Page 3A
a vase,” she said. Maybank continued, “I plant my garden in early May so the annuals won’t start blooming until six weeks later. Bulbs are nice in spring and azalea, cherry, forsythia and lilac are all fantastic for cutting.” As the vegetables all need to be rotated in the soil every year, Maybank rearranges her flower planting, which she does in rows, just like the vegetables. “Every year I rethink what I want to plant,” she said. “If I have a tall plant, I need something lower next to it. If it’s something really tall like a sunflower, I put them as far back as I can. Otherwise they would shade the garden.”
Continued from the previous page
not necessarily grown in a cutting garden that are “fantastic for cutting,” like bulbs — daffodils, tulips and such — that “just go into the natural landscape planting.” Plants with “interesting foliage, not from annual plants, shrubs, trees, hostas, things with interesting leaves,” can become “the backbone of any arrangement,” she said. Before heading off to the nursery, “think about the colors in your house. If your house is all blues, and you like blues, plant blue flowers, plant something that looks great in your house.” Also, go for height and a sturdy stem. “Buy annuals that are going to be tall and wonderful,” she said. Because tender perennials, like the delicious-smelling purple-flowered heliotrope and verbena bonariensis, die in cold climates, they are used like annuals, and are perfect for floral arrangements, Maybank said. Sometimes the plants reseed themselves, she noted. Some of Maybank’s recommendations for a cutting garden are cosmos, salvias, cleome, snapdragons, ageratum, blue horizon and larkspur. “The nice thing about annuals is they bloom all summer long,” she said. “Perennials have a bloom time of about three weeks. Annuals bloom forever!” After the frost hits and there’s nothing left in the patch, Maybank gets even more creative. “Branches of beautiful Japanese maples look gorgeous sitting in
Indulgence Courtesy of Virginia Maybank
A cutting garden from A-Z Here are some of the plants experts recommend: Allium
Salvia Snapdragons Sunflowers
Sheri Silver of Fiori Garden Design in Irvington advised making a list of all the flowers you want to have. Silver writes a blog called “donuts dresses and dirt” at sherisilver.com that shares “what I am most passionate about,” including gardening. “A cutting garden is different than a foundation bed or perennial border,” Silver said. “It’s sort of an indulgence. It’s not about what looks right or what makes sense, but about what you love.” Although it’s great to have a wish list, the plant has to be put in the right space to thrive, Silver cautioned. Gardeners in our area also have to think about the critters that love to Continued on page 18A
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HOME & Garden
Fern-tastic! By MARY LEGRAND
h deer! How do Westchester homeowners create beautiful landscaping without attracting those roving bands of four-footed munchers that lay waste to tender shrubs and perennials on a nightly basis? One answer is to plant ferns, which white-tailed deer and other critters tend to avoid. Compared to other perennials, ferns are also relatively low maintenance, another added plus. Mark Gilliland of Garden Artistry in Irvington is a New York Botanical Garden certified landscape designer. A fan of ferns, he noted that “a large number of fern species can accept part shade to full shade environments, although most require rich humus soils and prefer not to have extended periods of dry soil.” Thus, “they are appropriate for woodland edges, shade gardens, rain gardens and other specialized design uses,” Gilliland continued. Best used in groupings, ferns can differ in size from delicate Japanese painted ferns, which are typically 18 inches high by 12 inches wide, to ostrich ferns, which come in at a whopping 5 feet in height by 3 feet in width.
“So planting smaller ones near the front of the border and larger ones as architectural accents in the mid- to rear-bed makes sense,” Gilliland said. “I particularly like using painted fern under flowering trees as a ground cover accent mixed with sweet woodruff.” Gilliland does caution that those thinking of planting ferns need to “check carefully about soil and water requirements, especially as they get into sunnier locations — damper, more continuous moisture will be needed. One particular fern for drier locations is autumn fern. In terms of water, ferns could do well in beds of mixed part-shade to shade perennials such as cimcifugia or snakeroot, astilbe, bleeding heart or monkshood.” Basic care involves cutting ferns back to their crown in late winter or early spring before regrowth commences. “Although not evergreen, leaving ferns standing through winter can provide interesting visual textures against snow,” Gilliland said. Daryl Beyers is senior landscape designer at Poundridge Nurseries in Pound Ridge. A graduate of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he earned a degree in environmental design, Beyers concurs that landscaping with ferns is a good idea for Westchester property owners, particularly those who live in
the parts of the county with high deer populations. “Ferns are great plants to use for groundcover,” Beyers said. “They’re useful considering all the trees around here, because ferns do really well in the shade. Deep shade is one of the hardest parts to try to garden in; you’re really limited in terms of the possibilities. You can’t use hosta because the deer will eat them all.” Ferns are also useful because there are so many varieties, colors and textures, according to Beyers. “They can range from the big ostrich ferns, which can get
April 20, 2012
to be 6 feet tall,” he said. “Compare that to the maidenhair fern, which is so delicate, small and tiny, just the opposite of the ostrich fern.” Beyers said “getting a lot of mileage out of foliage” is an important plus for those who consider planting ferns. “Flowers come and go, but foliage tends to be there all year-round, at least during the growing season and along the edges of those months. Ferns persist throughout the winter. They’ll get a little ragged, but if you have a winter like we just did with no snow, they’ll definitely hold up through December.” Beyers said there are about two dozen kinds of ferns available at Poundridge Nurseries, where he’s been for four years and writes a blog that appears on the nursery’s website. “You can buy big ferns in 3- or 5-gallon pots down to a little 4-inch pot. Once they’re established you’re in good shape, but you do have to water them well the first season, depending on the sun exposure,” he said. “With deep shade you should be in good shape even through the summer. If they do get some sun during the day, they might need extra water during the hottest, sunniest days in July, August and September.” Amending soil with peat moss to help retain moisture is always helpful, Beyers said, adding that one of his favorite ways to use ferns is to mass them. “You could take over a big slope,” he said. “The Continued on the next page
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HOME & Garden
aPRIl 20, 2012
Nothing’s better than your own backyard
he comforts of modern living have moved outdoors. In the last several years, a sluggish economy and high gasoline prices have motivated people to take “staycations” and relax in their own backyards. “You just have to provide people with a reason to stay home,” said landscape designer Tom Dieck, of TRD Designs Ltd., in Katonah. His solution for beautiful serenity, destination-style fun and open-air luxury is achieved through thoughtful space planning, perimeter privacy, and interesting special features. “The outdoor living room is a central concept in most designs these days,” he said. It usually involves a protected space — with a roof or canopy — to make it compatible with various weather conditions. Furniture sets, weather-resistant cushions and outdoor rugs complete the look. Beyond the outdoor living room, visuals are important. “It’s important to create focal points to draw the eye out toward something interesting or beautiful, such as a water feature, a sculpture or a pleasing plant,” Dieck said. “But it’s equally important to keep the eye inside your own backyard. You don’t want to be looking at your
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lights should be reserved for areas where safety or security is a concern; path lighting belongs near walkways, and directed lighting can focus on task areas (such as a grill); subtle accent lighting best illuminates special landscape elements. “If done properly, you should never see the source of the lighting — just the effects,” Dieck said. 4) Outdoor ﬁreplaces, pits and hearths: Like water, fire creates movement, sound and interaction. But more than water, fire also generates inviting warmth and a pleasing scent of burning wood. A permanent fire feature extends the use of an outdoor space by generating comfort during cool evenings. The ability to roast marshmallows or hot dogs over an open flame is an added bonus. Just make sure they’re permitted where you live. 5) Breakaway patios: A breakaway patio is a cozy, intimate space in which an individual or a couple can find privacy for reading, conversation or romance. Breakaway patios are most evocative if they are not obviously visible. The area can be made of any material, such as mosaic bluestone, a small wooden deck or even grass. It should have a loveseat and subtle lighting, as well as a beautiful feature, such as a small fountain or specimen plant. Often, a subtle stepping-stone path defines the way to the destination patio, but the walkway should appear more random than obvious. The patio should feel like a discovered Eden. — TrAci DUTTon LUDwiG
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neighbors while enjoying your outdoor oasis.” Stone walls, vine covered fences and large perimeter hedges provide appropriate natural screening. “With comfort and the right atmosphere, you’ll never want to leave,” Dieck said. 1) Pondless waterfalls: Pondless waterfalls offer all the benefits of a waterfall stream without the pond. As a perfect focal point, a waterfall adds elements of movement and tranquil sound to a garden. A waterfall also attracts wildlife — birds, frogs and butterflies — that seek it as a habitat. Pondless waterfalls fit into small spaces and are safe, low maintenance and self-sustaining. 2) Fountainscapes: Fountainscapes can be made out of natural stone columns, overflowing urns, stacked vessels, birdbaths or anything else that combines sculptural form with flowing water. Easy to maintain, fountainscapes are based on recirculating systems that refill by rain. Movement prevents the risk of mosquito larvae that normally breed in stagnant water. 3) Outdoor lighting: Backyards do not go away at night. With proper lighting, an outdoor environment will be as interesting by night as by day. LED lights offer the truest, brightest, whitest light — like moonlight. They last three or four times longer than halogen bulbs, and they burn cooler. Dieck recommends a combination of lights for the best effects and mood. Strong bright
maintenance is practically zero. They go dormant in the winter, so you don’t have to cut them back or take them out. It’s natural for them to do that, and the old leaves compost and produce the next generation.” In addition to consulting landscape designers such as Gilliland and Beyers, there are a number of reference books and sources on using ferns. Gilliland suggested Christopher Lloyd’s “Garden Flowers: Perennials, Bulbs, Grasses, Ferns,” William Cullina’s “Native Ferns, Moss and Grasses,” A.M. Armitage’s “Native Plants for North American Gardens,” and “Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East,” by Carolyn Summers as good references. And, unbeknownst to many local residents, there’s a fern expert living right here in Westchester County. Dr. John Mickel, senior curator emeritus at the Institute of Systemic Botany, lives in Briarcliff Manor. Interpretation of ferns to the public has been a major part of his career. As founder and only secretary of the New York Fern Society, and founder and editor of the American Fern Society’s bulletin, Fiddlehead Forum, Dr. Mickel is a longtime public lecturer on fern cultivation who has shared his expertise with a number of local garden clubs over the years. He is also the author of “Ferns for American Gardens: The Definitive Guide for Selecting and Growing More Than 500 Kinds of Hardy Ferns.”
Continued from the previous page
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Page 6A | The RIVERTOWNS ENTERPRISE
t all started innocently enough. The brown tiles in our basement were old and ugly, many of them cracked or completely unglued. So I decided to remove them and put down some new self-adhesive tiles. A week later, men in HAZMAT suits were traipsing through the house, sealing off the entire basement area with biohazard tape and barrier paper. What had seemed to be an easy do-ityourself job turned into a major expense because I had inadvertently released asbestos into the room when I removed the first few tiles. Fortunately, I noticed the word “asbestos’” printed on the back of the third tile and I got out of there, pronto. When the men in the white suits arrived, they explained that removing the tiles would actually be more dangerous than “encapsulating” them with a special sealant, then putting wall-to-wall carpeting over the sealant. To this day, I still obsess about what I may have inhaled in those first few minutes. Then there was the simple kitchen wallpaper job. We assumed the walls were in pretty good shape, except for the unfortunate navy blue wallpaper we had inherited from the former owners. When the painter began removing the old paper, the wall practically disintegrated. “That paper was the only thing holding the wall together,” the painter said with a big grin. The final bill was not funny. It turned out that not only had the wall been damaged by a slow leak in the roof that the room shared with the garage, but carpenter ants, who love leaky places, had turned all the wood studs and supporting beams into something resembling a rice cake. We ended up replacing two walls and half of the ceiling of the kitchen and the garage. Then there’s my friend whose roof was damaged in last year’s hurricane. They covered everything with a tarp to prevent further damage, and an emergency roofing crew soon arrived to make everything watertight. It was too late, though. Water had already seeped between the walls, and mold was growing in there. When painters arrived to do some work on the ceiling of the room whose roof had been damaged, they discovered evidence of mold,
When small jobs turn
BIG > By Jackie Lupo
and insisted on taking a look-see inside the wall. Guess what? There was mold growing all over the inside of the wall, and all over the inside of the exterior wall too. All the wallboard in the room had to be replaced, as well as the damaged part of the exterior wall. With home ownership comes the realization that small jobs have the tendency to become great, big jobs very quickly. And don’t forget expensive.
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Lots of times the culprit is hidden damage that is discovered in the process of doing some seemingly routine maintenance, or when opening up a wall during a small renovation project. That’s when you find out the ugly truth about the water damage, insect infestations, wood rot, mold, toxic chemicals and various building code violations that the inspector never noticed before you bought your house.
But wait, you say. My house is new and does not have any of those problems. Surely I can do a few minor home improvement projects myself. How hard can it be?
How hard, indeed. It’s those five words that make contractors love, love, love doit-yourselfers. “Half of my business is finishing work Continued on page 8A
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HOME & Garden
aPRIl 20, 2012
Flooring: it’s what you walk on According to Donna Kanter, of Kanter’s Carpet and Design Center in White Plains, “Flooring has become its own fashion statement, not just a way of covering the floor. What you put on the floor defines the overall look of a room.” In general, she has noticed greater attention to natural materials like wool carpets and green products, such as carpet backs made out of recycled bottles. “Synthetic carpets have also come a long way,” Kanter said. “They’re very recyclable and easy to care for. Advanced stain protection is now incorporated directly into the carpet fibers before the carpet is even woven.” 1) Preﬁnished hardwood ﬂooring: Available in a variety of finishes, these can be installed in less than a day, without dust or mess. They offer immediate beauty and instant gratification. 2) Custom area rugs: Imaginative designs, patterns, sizes and colors are now available through made-to-order area rugs for bedrooms, living rooms or kitchens. Textured or patterned carpets, too, can be cut down to size and finished with a boarder in leather, fabric or suede. 3) Printed and patterned carpets: From bold to demure, geometric to floral, printed and patterned carpets are im-
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mensely popular. Commanding attention in a room, they add instant impact and design. 4) Texture: Bare feet rejoice! Shag carpets and rugs are back in force. Modernized with a contemporary softness, they create warmth and luxury. Cut-and-loop carpets are another option for texture, adding an overall feeling of sophistication. 5) Laminate ﬂooring: Available in tile, wood or stone designs, laminate flooring offers the look of natural beauty, but is softer on the feet. Easy to clean and maintain, this option is ideal for kitchens, mudrooms, entryways and other high traffic areas. — TrAci DUTTon LUDwiG
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HOME & Garden
Small job, big job
may bore right through wallboard to get to the wood below; a telltale sign is little piles of plaster dust on the floor. Since these insects are attracted to wet wood, leaks (such as those caused by broken plumbing inside the house, or by overflowing gutters or ice dams that send water between the walls) should be taken care of immediately. If you have had a roof leak, sending water through the ceiling, the section of ceiling will probably have to be removed to make sure the timbers are dry and free of insect infestation. If you just patch and paint where the water came through, you may not know you have a wood problem until it’s too late. The same goes for mold: ignoring a persistent leak can cause serious mold problems that eventually can require replacing large areas of the walls.
Continued from page 6A
homeowners try to do themselves,” said Bob Kahn, an architect and building contractor in White Plains. “The things that are important are preparation and experience,” he noted, adding that many people take on renovations without being aware of all the details involved. “If you have a set of plans and a contactor bids on the plans, there shouldn’t be any surprises.” That being said, however, sometimes homeowners are still surprised when they hire an architect or a contractor and find out that the project is a lot more involved than they thought it would be. “You’re best off in the hands of an architect because an architect doesn’t have anything to lose if he gives his clients proper advice,” said Scarsdale architect Carl Petrescu. He advises homeowners who are thinking about a renovation project to call an architect before hiring a designer or a contractor. “It’s worth spending a few hundred dollars for a consultation.” For example, an architect might tell you that the floor in an old house might not be strong enough to take the weight of new, heavy flooring. “The more structural the problem is, the more complicated,” he noted. For example, if you see the floor is angled and you put in a new, level floor, then you have to anticipate changing the doorframes and the moldings. Or, if you put on an addition, you might create drainage problems. “Designers tell you anything is possible, but they don’t know what structural issues may be involved,” Petrescu said. Other problems arise when homeowners set out to make minor household repairs. Bart Tyler, owner of Kelloggs & Lawrence Hardware Store in Katonah, sees many homeowners who visit the store for help with projects that take on a life of their own. “Probably the leading one would be plumbing,” he said. He noted that homeowners often try to replace faucets, drains, or the mechanism inside the toilet… “and one thing leads to another. You get the faucet in place and then you find out the valve doesn’t shut off, but in
April 20, 2012
attempting to replace it you break a pipe inside the walls.” Then there’s the “simple” project of hanging a shelf or curtain rod. “These products often come prepackaged with wall fasteners,” he said — but the fasteners in the package might be ones made for plaster walls, and your walls are sheetrock, or vice versa. “Over time, it will come off,” he predicted. And when it does come off, it usually leaves a hole bigger than the one you started with, so you need to come up with a different kind of fastener to reattach what just fell off the wall. Painting is a favorite do-it-yourself project that Tyler said could often go wrong if the homeowner doesn’t prepare the walls properly. Even planting a simple garden can turn into a major project. “You buy seed and start a little garden plot,” said Tyler. “Then you see there are critters eating the garden, so you put up fence stakes. But then you realize there are burrowing creatures getting in underneath, so you have to sink wire mesh around it. But then you find that birds are attracted to it…” and so on and on, until you’ve built a bunker to keep out all those walking, burrowing and flying creatures. Preventive measures
Sometimes little maintenance issues are ignored, ending up as big repair jobs later. Mark Goldman of American House
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Care in New Rochelle visits clients on a seasonal basis to take care of maintenance chores before they become problems. “Gutter cleaning is important because if you don’t do it, it can affect the fascia boards, and the water can run down the house,” he said. “We take care of little cracks in the masonry after the winter. You don’t want to wait so long that the cracks become large and they start dislodging the stones. We’ll do an annual flushing of an electric or gas water heater to prevent buildup of sediment. That can prolong the life of the water heater.” Goldman also cleans out clients’ clothes dryer vents. He noted that just brushing off the lint filter isn’t enough: it’s necessary to clean out the whole vent. “Most people ignore this, but it can cause inefficiency in the dryer, and eventually it can cause a fire.” Ignoring subtle signs of problems can lead to big repair issues later. Insect damage can be hard to spot inside a wall, but if you spot carpenter ants (big ants with a thin waist, bent antennae and two sets of wings of different sizes) or termites (a thick waist, straight antennae and both sets of wings the same size), don’t wait to seek help. Signs of damage from carpenter ants would be piles of sawdust around the bottom of walls or decking. This indicates that the ants are burrowing into the wood and depositing the sawdust outside their tunnels. Termites
If you live in an older house, you may be in for some surprises when you start to remodel. Lead paint was used for decades, and there may be many layers of it hiding under more recent paint finishes. If you think there may be lead paint under all those old layers, you should not sand those areas yourself. Asbestos was used in all kinds of construction projects until the ’60s in products such as flooring, acoustical tiles, insulation, wrappings for pipes, etc. It was also used in soundproofing or decorative material sprayed on walls or ceilings, and in patching compounds through the ’70s. Any of these items are safe to leave where they are, as long as they are intact. In fact, trying to remove them can cause worse problems, because when asbestos is disturbed (such as when a floor tile or an acoustical ceiling panel is broken), the dangerous little asbestos fibers, which can cause cancer, are released into the air. Drilling into walls containing asbestos can also have problems, and pulling asbestos insulation out of walls by yourself can be really hazardous. Asbestos and lead abatement professionals can come to your house and tell you whether your house contains these materials. They’ll let you know your options: sealing, or encapsulating, the area, enclosing it with some sort of covering material, or removing the material entirely. If it must be removed, the abatement should only be done by a professional.
HOME & Garden
APril 20, 2012
The RIVERTOWNS ENTERPRISE | Page 9A
Decorating for the empty-nester: making your home your own By NANCY ALMEIDA
hat will you do with your home after the children leave? For parents, this is a question that eventually comes our way. We can’t imagine it as we push the stroller or are wrapped up with school activities, but one day the house will be all yours to do whatever you’d like. This is a time of self-discovery, especially when you can reclaim areas of the house that once were not all yours. As an interior designer, I get calls from time to time from empty-nesters looking to do something different to their homes. They do not want to move; they just want to make their home feel “new” again with furnishings and accessories that reflect this new time in their lives. The first thing I suggest is to do an evaluation of their existing furnishings and see what can be kept, what needs to go and what can be reassigned to other areas of the house. I also always ask to see items they may have stored as now is the time to use that white rug or delicate chair that was kept safely hidden. Once I have a good idea as to what furnishings we will be using, I suggest experimenting with colors for the walls that are different from what was always used before. Nothing gives a
room a facelift like a fresh coat of color. Now is the time to be creative and have fun in the design process; after all, now it’s all about you. Design style is also something to consider. If your home was always traditional, you may want to think about a contemporary look. If your color palette has always been white or cream, richly painted colored walls in deep shades can bring a completely different feel to the room or house. As you can see, you do not need to do an entire overhaul. Small changes such as new wall color, new light fixtures or simply rearranging a room can give you a sense of private ownership. You can also turn that now extra bedroom into that office you always wanted or into a sleek media room. If you entertain frequently, you can create intimate “niches” in a room for interesting dinner parties. With a little creativity, your new “old” home will bring you many more years of enjoyment in this new phase of life. Nancy Almeida has been an interior designer for 30 years with offices in New York, Connecticut, Long Island and Florida. She has been featured in local and national publications. Her website, www.nancyalmeida. com, features a selection of her work.
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Page 10A | The RIVERTOWNS ENTERPRISE
HOME & Garden
April 20, 2012
Long live your lawn! And how to bring it back to life when it seems grim By JACKIE LUPO
neighbor of mine had a lawn that was the envy of the block: thick, green and weed-free. This elderly gentleman could be seen each day removing a few errant weeds from the flowerbeds, but otherwise he apparently did nothing but pay a guy to mow every week. When we moved into the house two doors away, our lawn could hardly be called a lawn, since weeds and bare spots greatly outnumbered areas of what could reasonably be called “grass.” After a few years in the hands of the landscaper who had worked for our neighbor for decades, our lawn was also lush, green and weedfree, although I soon realized that mowing was only one of the many jobs that gardener did for the lawn throughout the season. I also realized that without constant attention, there is no natural scenario in which a lawn will remain a lawn. Left to its own devices, the typical suburban lawn will revert to its baser instincts, which most likely means an amalgam of a little grass and a lot of weeds (both native and invasive foreigners) and many areas victimized by insects and disease. Since no two ailing lawns are sick for exactly the same reason, I set out to discover why some lawns look great while others struggle on, season after season. Here’s what I found. It starts with the soil
“Everything that occurs in the lawn starts with the soil,” said Jim Boes, owner of Innovative Irrigation in Larchmont. “My house was built in the 1920s and six or seven owners have been here. You don’t know what kind of care people have taken before you. So a good thing is to start with a soil sample, because you want to know the pH level of the soil.” Having forgotten my high school chemistry, that meant little to me. But it turns out that a lawn thrives only when the pH is neutral: about 6.5. When the pH is below 7.0, it is acidic; above 7.0, it is alkaline. Lots of things can affect the lawn’s pH, including the leaching of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium from the soil, or the use
of certain fertilizers. When the pH is off, the lawn can’t get proper nutrients for growth, and it becomes less able to withstand stressors such as heat, lack of water, or too much traffic over the grass. If the lawn is too acidic, you will probably need an application of lime to bring it up to a neutral pH. Don’t expect instant results after the lime application, said Boes: “It takes two to three months for the lime to cycle through the soil.” Once you have your soil analyzed, you’ll also be in a better position to choose other lawn care products that are made for the particular composition of your lawn. Note that what you use to treat your lawn may not be what you need for your shrubs and flowers. For example, natu-
rally acidic soil is not all bad. Azaleas will thrive in acidic soil. Lilacs will suffer in it. How do you have your soil analyzed? The easiest way is by hiring a turf grass expert to take samples from several areas of the lawn in order to find out the pH and discover any other anomalies in the soil. You can also do this yourself. An excellent resource for this is the agricultural college at Cornell University. Send them $45 along with your soil sample (their website tells you how to take the sample) and they’ll tell you the condition of your soil, what organic matter and minerals are present, the pH, and many other facts that affect the fertility of your lawn. Visit http://soilhealth.cals.cornell. edu/extension/test.htm for complete instructions.
What, exactly, is your problem?
SavaLawn, with offices in Mamaroneck and Bedford Hills, sends a lawn care expert to walk the property, diagnose the soil conditions, spot the many factors that can be causing lawn problems, and recommend treatments for those problems. Many homeowners assume that all lawn care companies will want to put lots of chemicals on the lawn. But many lawn care specialists, such as SavaLawn, offer customers a choice among organic, nonorganic, and combination programs. If you live near water or if you have children and/or pets walking all over the grass, the organic solution may be preferContinued on the next page
APril 20, 2012 Continued from the previous page
able. It costs a little more and takes a bit longer to see results, but you may sleep better at night not wondering about the chemicals in your yard. Soil composition is only one factor affecting lawn health. “High humidity, moisture, stress conditions and certain types of grass can create favorable conditions for problems such as lawn fungus, brown patches, red thread and other lawn diseases,” according to information published by SavaLawn. Timing is everything
Although there’s the temptation to throw everything you can at a lawn problem at the beginning of the spring, that may not be the best time. This year, many people have problems because of the early spring. Ideally, said Boes, “a pre-emergent broadleaf [weed] control and fertilizer kills weed seeds and feeds the lawn.” But you may have missed your window of opportunity to use a pre-emergent product, since everything started to grow about a month early. If you want to reseed your lawn, you will need to apply a post-emergent weed killer, and then you will have to wait a while to apply grass seed. “Ideally, you should do seeding in the fall, not in the spring,” said Boes, “because the soil temperature is still up but you don’t have weeds emerging.” Aeration is another remedy for sick lawns. The healthiest lawns have nice, deep roots. If the soil is compacted, water can’t get deep down into the soil. The grass roots stay near the surface, and it’s easy for those plants to be killed by drought, excessive water, people walking on the lawn, the wheels of lawnmowers, and so on. When landscapers do a core aeration, they use a machine that brings up little cylinders of soil, creating lots of holes for water to enter. Many landscapers do this job in the spring, but
HOME & Garden
that’s not ideal if there are a lot of weeds, because, according to Boes, “This also brings the weeds up.” A good time to apply seed is after aerating, because when you do apply seed, it has to have a way to get into the soil. Applying seed over a thatch of dead grass and hard soil won’t do much. At the very least, you need to vigorously rake up the lawn so the seed has someplace to go. Bad patches
Suppose your lawn is generally in good shape but has patches of dead or yellowing grass. The problem could be that some fertilizer has killed a patch of grass, or doggie visitors have upset the chemical balance of the soil. Now, the soil is contaminated. So putting seed and fertilizer there won’t do much. The best remedy for patches of contaminated soil begins with getting that contamination away from the surface. Dig a spade into the soil and try to remove the whole dead patch, along with a few inches of soil, in one piece. Flip the whole thing over. Now, you’ve transferred the contaminated material deep underground, where it will dissipate. You should flood the area with water to drive the contaminants further underground. Then you can seed and fertilize the bare patches. It’s essential to keep the seeded areas constantly moist until the seed germinates, which may take a couple of weeks. If you let the seeds dry out before they put out roots, they will probably die. Starting over
Sod is the high-ticket solution for bringing a lawn back from the dead. Sod is like wall-to-wall carpet for your lawn, complete with weed-free grass and its own root system. But for sod to establish itself well on your soil, it needs to be able to put down roots, receive adequate water and get enough sunlight to grow properly. Boes explained that if homeowners
The RIVERTOWNS ENTERPRISE | Page 11A
don’t have an irrigation system and are thinking of installing a sod lawn, the time to get those sprinklers installed is before the sod is laid down. “It’s much more difficult to install sprinklers after sod is down,” he said. Keeping the sod well-watered will help its roots reach down, into the soil below. “A steadily, properly irrigated lawn will be healthier because you’re able to drive the root growth,” said Boes. He added that once the sod is established with roots in the underlying soil, it should be aerated to promote water reaching deep into the ground. Compared to most existing lawns, sod lawns are very dense, and water has trouble getting through. Don’t aerate sod before the roots are established, though: if you can pull on a section of sod and it comes up like a doormat, it’s not rooted yet. It may take four to six weeks for sod to lock into the soil.
few times during the growing season. If you have your sprinkler system set up by your irrigation company when they arrive this month to turn it on for the season, the system does not need to be delivering as much water now as it will in the heat of the summer. It may seem like a pain to keep resetting the system when the weather changes, but it’s necessary, unless you invest in a controller that is weather-sensitive. These are newest generation of irrigation system controllers. They adapt to the weather conditions and continually change the program for each zone, so the homeowner never has to touch it. Not only can this kind of controller do away with changing the programming several times a year, it also prevents your lawn from being soaked with water the day after a major rainstorm.
Once you’ve done everything possible to get a gorgeous lawn, don’t let that hard work be undone. • Don’t over-irrigate in shady areas where grass is thinly established; these areas will tend to become flooded after watering, and they’ll turn into mud pits when you run a mower over them. • Be sure the lawn mower blades you or your gardener uses are nice and sharp. If the ends of the grass look jagged, the blades of the mower are dull. Blades of grass that are injured this way will put out a clear, sticky liquid. If this happens, the lawn should be watered thoroughly. • Is your gardener’s mower contagious? If he is not cleaning off his mower blades from his last job before he comes to your property, his mower could be transferring weeds to your pristine lawn. • Don’t cut your lawn too short. Let it grow to 3” to promote dense growth and healthy roots. • If you see weeds emerging, leave your grass a little longer, about 3 1/2 inches, to choke out the weeds and deprive them of sunlight.
Sometimes installing an irrigation system or tweaking an existing system can give a lawn a new lease on life. “The design is absolutely the crucial part of the irrigation system,” said Boes. “You need to know how to design a system for the amount of slope, and for sun and shade factors. You need to separate the lawn from the shrubs and high water-need plants.” Even though it may seem more complicated, said Boes, the more zones you have, the better. Not only will you be able to control the frequency and duration of the watering in each zone, but you will be able to choose what types of sprinkler heads deliver water to different areas of the garden. If you have put in a flowerbed where you used to have lawn, and you already have a sprinkler system, the sprinkler heads delivering water to that part of the property should probably be changed because flowers and shrubs have different water needs from grass lawns. Expect to reset your sprinkler system a
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Page 12A | The RIVERTOWNS ENTERPRISE
HOME & Garden
April 20, 2012
Be good to your chimney and furnace year-round By MARY LEGRAND
house needs to be heated and cooled. Sometimes that’s about all a homeowner knows about his or her HVAC system. But whether a house has a boiler that heats by producing hot water or steam, or a furnace that forces out hot air, what is probably the major piece of equipment in one’s home must be installed and maintained regularly for safety and efficiency’s sake. Greenfield Plumbing and Heating in Irvington was started in 1962 by John Greenfield. In 1981 Joe Clarke joined the team, became a licensed Master Plumber, and, in 1988, took over the business upon Greenfield’s retirement. With business partner Joey Good, Clarke handles complete boiler installation, replacement and servicing, among many other aspects of the business. “With boilers and furnaces you definitely want them serviced once a year,”
Clarke said. “You want to make sure you’re getting proper combustion. We come out and clean the burners and make sure we analyze flue gases. If filters need to be changed, we do that at least once a year. We check the base of the chimney to make sure the flue is in good shape and that it’s drafting. We don’t check the actual interior of the chimney, which is important for safety’s sake. That’s done by a chimney company.” Greenfield Plumbing and Heating offers homeowners an annual maintenance agreement. “We come out and do the cleaning and servicing and check the whole unit,” Clarke said. “If something needs to be repaired, we bring it to your attention.” Clarke said that having a technician look at a furnace or boiler on a regular basis is the best practice. “That way we get familiar with your system.” He adds, “many houses, especially older homes, have quirks that are part of the system. We’re completely computerized in terms of our records, so if, as we’ve seen in some houses, there’s a vent on the second floor in a closet, we’ll have that
in our records. Our technicians are reminded on the call slip about things like that, but more importantly they know each house because they’ve been to it multiple times.” For Clark, smaller is better when it comes to customer service. “When you have a relationship with our firm you can trust that what we tell you is what needs to be done,” Clarke said. “Some
companies are fly by night. Their guys work strictly on commission, so they’re looking to sell you something. We don’t operate that way.” Clarke said that while Greenfield is “licensed all over the county,” its technicians service homes and businesses “mostly on the west side of the county, the Rivertowns from Ossining to Yonkers Continued on page 14A
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HOME & Garden
The RIVeRTOWNS eNTeRPRISe | Page 13a
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wonderful reason to visit Westchester County’s only botanical garden and arboretum this spring is the 21st annual plant sale at Lasdon Park & Arboretum on Saturday, May 19, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The sale will be preceded by a festive New Leaf for Lasdon preview event the evening of Friday, May 18, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Both events are being presented by the Friends of Lasdon. Preview guests will be treated to first pick of the plants, while enjoying wine and hors d’oeuvres in the garden provided by Table Local Market and Foun-
tainhead Wines of Bedford Hills. JoAnn DiRico Trautmann, coordinator of the Master Gardener program at Westchester County Cornell Cooperative Extension, will be honored with the first “New Leaf Award” in recognition of her significant contributions to gardening, landscapes and the environment in Westchester. Both events will feature The Sustainable Path, an interactive walk with stops highlighting many aspects of environmentally friendly gardening. Experts will be available to advise on such topics as using deer-resistant and native plants,
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Page 14A | The RIVERTOWNS ENTERPRISE
HOME & Garden
April 20, 2012
23,600 reasons to have your chimney serviced
and into White Plains, Greenburgh, Hartsdale and Scarsdale.” Those applying for jobs with Greenfield are given a 10-page exam as part of the application process, Clarke said. “It’s not a pass or fail. I look at it and can tell what he knows and doesn’t know just by looking at the exam. And we have ongoing training all the time. We’re constantly sending everybody to manufacturers’ schools. Most good companies will do that.” Although chimney installation, repair and cleaning are not services generally performed by heating and cooling firms, Clarke emphasized that keeping a house’s chimney in good working order is extremely important and goes hand-in-hand with ensuring a home remains safe. Homeowners should do their research and obtain verification of a chimney cleaning and repair company’s expertise before hiring such a firm. Chimney repair and cleaning are typically done by other, unrelated firms, like Mr. Chimney, which has been serving New York and Connecticut since 1969. All of these types of companies can help protect you against the silent killer, carbon monoxide (visit www. mrchimney.com/cohazard.html).
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that some 23,600 residential fires in the 50 states were related to solid fuel appliances and equipment in 1996. An additional 5,500 fires were attributed to chimneys and chimney connectors serving heating systems burning liquid and other fuels. As a result of these fires, 130 people died, 230 people were injured, and total property losses were set at more than $184.4 million. In addition there were a minimum of 119 deaths from carbon monoxide and at least 4,700 “injuries” reported for the same time frame, though most estimates range much higher. The root cause of most of these losses is that most U.S. homeowners are unaware that chimneys are an integral part of a home heating system and that they require regular evaluation and maintenance. In a great many European countries — including Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Germany — chimney-fire damage statistics have been reduced to negligible numbers because national coalitions of government, insurance companies, fire and building officials, and chimney sweeps have developed tough regulations mandating regularly scheduled chimney inspections and cleaning. The citizens of those countries understand the hazards of unmaintained chimneys, and their chimney sweeps are regular members of their home safety team. Most homeowners in the U.S. and Canada, however, seem to have little working
Continued from page 12A
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knowledge of chimney and venting systems. This situation is complicated by the fact that faults, damage and problems are rarely visible to the casual observer. In fact, people who will quickly replace a faulty automobile exhaust system because of the hazard it presents will allow their home’s exhaust system — the chimney or vent — to go unchecked and unmaintained for years. The threat of chimney fires and unsafe indoor air quality conditions can be greatly reduced, perhaps even eliminated, if homeowners only understood that chimneys are active home operation systems which require regular maintenance. The chimney sweep’s role
The basic task of a chimney sweep is to
clean chimneys. Cleaning means removing the hazard of accumulated and highly combustible creosote produced by burning wood and wood products. It means eliminating the buildup of soot in coaland oil-fired systems, it means getting rid of bird and animal nests, leaves and other debris that may create a hazard by blocking the flow of emissions from a home heating appliance. In doing their primary job, sweeps also function as onthe-job fire prevention specialists. They are constantly on the lookout for unsafe conditions that can cause home fires or threaten residents with dangerous or unhealthy indoor air quality. — From www.mrchimney.com
HOME & Garden
aPRIl 20, 2012
lasdon plant sale Continued from page 13A
as well as plants that attract butterflies, “good bugs” and hummingbirds. Exhibitors will add to the sustainability theme by offering products and information that encourage wild birds, beekeeping, mulching, raising chickens, composting and more. Kim Eierman, a certified horticulturist and native landscape expert, is a board member of the Friends of Lasdon and cochairman of the plant sale and preview benefit. “There is a growing awareness that environmental and ecological resources are limited and very sensitive to everything we do. As gardeners, we can have significant positive impacts on the landscapes and ecosystems around us by making informed choices about how we garden and what plants we choose,” she said. Local vendors will be in place, many reinforcing the sustainable theme. Stone Barns will be selling compost and mulch; Mill River supplies for the organic gardener; Guy Hodges his South Salem honey and beeswax products; Burren Farm their herbal products; The Front Yard Coop their mobile chicken coops; and Wild Birds Unlimited their bird-friendly products. Local artisans will be represented by Anthropek with hypertufa plant containers; The Copper Fields Design Studio with copper birdhouses, trellises and other garden ornamentalia; Hudson
River Potters with hand-thrown vases and pots; and the Village Bookstore from Pleasantville with garden books. Visitors are encouraged to explore the rest of the arboretum — the synoptic garden, the azalea and lilac collections, the historic tree trail, the Chinese Cultural Garden, and more. Lasdon Park comprises 234 acres and the fenced arboretum is 38 acres, making it the largest in Westchester County. “We are known for our azaleas and lilacs,” said Ted Kozlowski, manager of Lasdon, “but the synoptic garden, with ornamental plantings arranged in alphabetical order, is one of our most popular spots.” Preview party tickets are $25 per person and include a 20 percent discount on plant sale purchases for members of the Friends group and can be obtained online at http://www.nycharities.org/ Events/EventLevels.aspx?ETID=4818. Plant sale admission on Saturday is free. The newly refurbished Shop at Lasdon will be open for both events, then every Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Lasdon Park & Arboretum, a horticultural treasure owned and operated by Westchester County Department of Parks and Recreation, is located on Route 35 in Somers, three miles west of Route 100. For more information on both plant sale events and membership in the Friends of Lasdon, contact Nancy Giges at 683-5108 or lasdonfriends@ gmail.com.
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The RIVeRTOWNS eNTeRPRISe | Page 15a
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aPRIl 20, 2012
Consider variety of sources for a well-lit space From sunlight to bulb, the importance of lighting is very much tied to comfort and well-being in a space. According to interior designer Linda Blair of The Blair Interiors Group in Scarsdale, â€œItâ€™s easy to get caught up in picking out fixtures, but the real magic is in achieving the quality of a properly lit space. I like rooms that feel right; and for me, that feeling has a lot to do with lighting.â€? To achieve comfort of life, Blair recommends layered landscapes of light within each room. â€œLighting can be tricky,â€? she said. â€œYou neither want too little nor too much, and you must be sensitive to the function of each space and the activities that occur there.â€? Therefore, she recommends a combination of overhead ambient light, middle light around eye level, and directed task lighting for activities like cooking, reading or deskwork. â€œAll lighting should be strategically placed for the health and harmony of your life,â€? Blair recommended. It is important to illuminate hallways, walkways and stairways and to provide focused lighting in task areas. Coordinating light placement with a furniture floor plan assures a sensible, functional environment â€” and avoids the curiously popular fashion of repeating rows of recessed ceiling fixtures that tend
toward an overlit interior. Today, light bulbs are offered in a variety of choices. Blair recommends a combination of traditional incandescent bulbs (in lamps, sconces and overhead fixtures) and low-voltage MR16 halogen bulbs (in smalldiameter, recessed lighting or track lighting). Although incandescent bulbs have the shortest lifespan of 100-150 hours, Blair prefers their soft quality of light for achieving the greatest comfort in a space. MR16 bulbs have a lifespan of 500 hours. A third variety â€” florescent bulbs with a lifespan of 15,000 hours â€” are recommended only for hotels, apartment buildings and other commercial spaces where corridor lights need to stay on at all times. 1) Middle lighting: It is important to
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install lighting at eye level throughout a house, especially in foyers, living rooms, passageways and bathrooms. Sconces, table lamps, standing floor lamps and pendants satisfy this need and provide many design options. 2) Ceiling lights: A central ceiling fixture controlled by a switch is a practical and attractive way of lighting a room. Consider a central ceiling fixture for each room, combined with other layers of light. This combination creates a comfortable, pleasing atmosphere â€” as opposed to the stark brightness of numerous rows of recessed lights. A striking central fixture can also be an unexpected decorative element. 3) Task lighting: Focused task lighting is essential and should be placed where
needed inside a house â€” near a reading chair, at a desk, in the kitchen, flanking the bathroom mirror or highlighting a collection or an art display. Lamps or small (4inch) recessed lights with directed beams of light satisfy this role. Since the optical ability to physically see light decreases from age 25 through middle age, and further declines after the age of 55, task lighting is extremely important for health, productivity and well-being. 4) Simple ďŹ xtures: Lighting design has evolved away from fixtures dominated by metal arms and tiny shades. The most popular contemporary look favors clean geometry and soft-looking materials. Oversized drum shades, with bulbs concealed behind the shade, offer a clean, elegant, modern style. In simple solids, bold prints or geometric patterns, shades are making bold design statements while they seem to float in a room. Look for them suspended as hanging fixtures or mounted on simple standing bases. 5) Pairs: Twoâ€™s company when it comes to balanced lighting. Pairs of accent lamps, sconces or pendants create a lovely sense of symmetry while bathing a space with even lighting. The visual balance of a pair of sconces flanking an elegant mirror can be strong enough to even replace artwork on a wall. Pairs of strategically placed lamps can also create a rhythm of light and shadow, which softens an environment and can be used to navigate a space. â€” TrAci DUTTon LUDwiG
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