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Going Green Gardening tips for beginners

The Perks of Pruning How pruning benefits your trees and shrubs

Fencing Cost effective fencing options A SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT TO THE PROGRESS-INDEX


Gardening tips for beginners

Gardening is a rewarding hobby that many enthusiasts credit with helping them to peacefully escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Though gardening can be both relaxing and rewarding, it’s not as easy as it may seem, and the more time and effort a person devotes to his or her garden the more likely it is to be successful. Gardening can be a little daunting for beginners who have little or no experience planting flowers or vegetables. But gardening need not be so intimidating, especially for those beginners who adhere to the following tips aimed at helping novice gardeners start their gardens off on the right foot. Determine what you should plant. Where you live will go a long way toward determining what you should plant. While you can plant anything you can get your hands on, the United States Department of Agriculture as well as Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada have determined specific plant hardiness zones that indicate which plants are most likely to thrive in given locations. Maps of these zones can be found at www. usda.gov and www.agr.gc.ca. By adhering to the maps, gardeners can significantly increase their chances of growing successful gardens. When in doubt about what to plant, consult a local gardening center or seek advice from a professional landscaper. Think location when beginning your garden. Beginners with large yards have the luxury of choosing the right location on their properties to start planting. When choosing a spot, consider how much sunlight a location gets on a daily basis and the spot’s proximity to a water supply. If planting flowers, try to avoid planting in areas with heavy foot traffic so the flowers are less likely to be stomped. If you’re planting flowers to accent walkways, then consider erecting a barrier around the flower bed to safeguard the flowers from foot traffic. Get started before you plant. Preparing the soil a few

weeks before you start planting can help the plants thrive down the road. Add some organic material, such as compost or fertilizer, to the soil roughly three weeks before planting. This helps the soil retain water and nutrients, which will help your garden thrive. Time your planting. When you plant is sometimes as important as what you plant. Some climates allow for yearround planting, but many do not. When buying seeds, the packaging might suggest what time of year to plant the seeds. Adhere to these suggestions or your garden might not grow much at all. In addition, keep in mind that many seedlings need significant light throughout the day in order to grow, so choose a time of year with ample daylight. Don’t forget to mulch. Mulch can be as aesthetically appealing as it is effective. Mulch retains soil, helping roots to grow stronger, while deterring bugs and preventing weed growth. And many gardeners find mulch adds visual appeal their garden, and does so in a very inexpensive way. Clean your tools. Beginners rarely recognize the importance of cleaning gardening tools before putting them away. At

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the end of each gardening session, clean your tools thoroughly, as soil left on your garden tools can play host to potentially harmful microbes that might kill your plants. Gardening can be a labor-intensive yet gratifying hobby. By sticking to a few simple rules, beginners can develop a thriving garden to reward all of that hard work.

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Pros and cons

of automatic irrigation systems Water is essential to keeping a lawn or garden in good health. The trouble with watering is that it can be timeconsuming, especially if your idea of watering is standing outside with the hose. But thanks to irrigation systems, watering has become a lot less hands-on. An irrigation sprinkler or drip system takes much of the work out of watering a landscape. Some can also be fitted to deliver fertilizer and weed-prevention products to a lawn. But before any digging takes place, homeowners might want to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of irrigation systems. ADVANTAGES One of the most obvious advantages is the time savings afforded by an automatic sprinkler or drip irrigation system. Once installed, many systems can be set to a timer to water at specific time intervals and on certain days of the week. This means there’s no need to worry about forgetting to water the lawn and coming back from vacation to find crisp, yellow grass. Another advantage is that irrigation systems, particularly the drip type, can be positioned so that water is more effectively targeted where it is needed. Nozzles can be adjusted and underground drip tubes will deliver water right to the roots, rather than spraying walkways and driveways. Another advantage is that automatic irrigation systems are generally hidden from view, which means there are no unsightly hoses stretched across the lawn and no more tripping hazards. Sprinkler heads pop up to spray and then retract when the job is done. Underground drip systems do their work out of view. For families with young children and pets who share outdoor spaces, automatic systems may be a safer option.

Some homeowners choose to install automatic irrigation systems rather than using a hose and portable sprinkler.

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call us today! DISADVANTAGES The primary disadvantage associated with a sprinkler system is the expense. These systems can be quite costly depending on the size of the property. Furthermore, portions of the lawn will have to be dug up to install pipework and attach it to the plumbing system of the home. This can equate to days or weeks without use of the yard. Afterwards, the landscaping will have to be repaired. It is best to install an irrigation system prior to the installation of sod or extensive landscaping because some of it will have to be torn up. Homeowners who already have pristine yards may be turned off by this reality. Even the most efficient sprinkler systems can have their pitfalls. Wind can wreak havoc on sprinklers, directing water in the wrong direction. Underground pests may damage water-delivery systems, resulting in water pooling or broken parts. The repairs to fix an irrigation system can be much more costly than replacing a damaged garden hose. Irrigation systems have their advantages and disadvantages, and homeowners should weigh their options before installing a new system.

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Deer proofing a garden Creating a beautiful and bountiful garden is a popular pastime for people all across the country. It is important to keep in mind that aesthetically appealing plants may be appetizing to area wildlife, including deer. Those who do not want their gardens to turn into all-you-can-eat buffets for deer, rabbits and other wild animals can take a more proactive approach to gardening. Deer are opportunists who will no doubt see your garden as a salad bar ripe with all of their favorite foods. As housing developments continue to encroach on the natural habitats of deer and other animals, these animals are becoming more visible. Deer may not be able to forage for food effectively in their smaller, natural surroundings, or they may become accustomed to the “easy pickings” they find in neighborhood yards. Either way, you may encounter a deer in or around your area. Keeping deer at bay involves some work and maintenance on the part of a homeowner. There are safe and humane methods to repelling deer, or at least blocking access to the plants worth protecting. Here are the main ways to deer-proof a garden. FENCE IT Fences are one way to deter deer from entering a yard and dining on your garden. Keep in mind that deer can jump fences that are quite tall, but they have to be especially motivated to jump an eight-foot-tall fence. Still, they tend to be weary about scaling a fence when they cannot see what is on the other side. Therefore, if you are fencing out deer, choose a fence that camouflages the garden well and completely encloses the area to be protected. If you do not want the fence to be solid, consider putting stakes or thorny plants within the garden so that the deer will hesitate to jump into the garden.

meal or even human hair around the garden may repel the deer and keep them on a different foraging path. However, remember that any deer that is very hungry may ignore unpleasant tastes or smells for a quick bite. CHANGE PLANTS If other food sources are available, there are some species of plants and trees that deer will avoid. Filling your garden with these plants can help you maintain a beautiful, albeit untasty, environment for deer. When planting annuals, select among: • Alyssum • Begonias • Calendula • Celosia • Dianthus • Foxglove • Geraniums • Parsley • Poppy • Snapdragons

SCARE THEM Deer are naturally skittish around people, but over time they can become quite complacent around human beings. Once a deer decides that something will not present a threat, the deer can adapt to its presence. Motion-activated devices may not work, nor the presence of pets. Predator urine is typically an effective way at keeping deer at bay. Bottled coyote urine can be In terms of perennials, plant these items once, and deer quite effective, although human urine may work as well. Reapplying the product could stay away: • Ageratum weekly around the plants is a good idea. • Anemone • Astibe REPEL THE DEER • Bearded iris There are many organic or chemically• Catmint based products on the market that deer • Honeysuckle may find offensive to the taste or smell. • Lantana Hot pepper, sulfur and eggs or even the • Monkshood use of soapy water have been successful • Rock rose in certain instances. The use of blood

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• Rosemary • Soapwort • Wisteria Plant these herbs alongside flowers for even more protection: • Chives • Eucalyptus • Garlic

• Mint • Thyme • Wintergreen Gardeners who use a combination of methods to keep deer out of their yards and gardens may have a higher success rate at deterring these animals.


Cost-eective fencing options Fencing serves many purposes. Some homeowners erect a fence for privacy, while others do so to contain pets and children. Because fencing can be expensive, some homeowners look for ways to cut costs, which can be relatively easy, especially for those homeowners willing to consider various materials

when erecting their fence. Traditional fences are available in materials ranging from wood to vinyl to metal. Homeowners have other options at their disposal if they prefer a more natural fence. Different shrubs, trees or grasses can be planted to create a barrier between properties or within the property. When choosing a fencing material, consider that even a less expensive material may prove more expensive in the long run if it needs significant maintenance or has to be replaced in just a few years. Therefore, the most cost-effective fencing material may not necessarily be the least expensive one at the store. Here are some materials homeowners can consider. Found material: Repurposed wood or metal can be crafted into a rustic, oneof-a-kind fence. Materials can be found that are no cost, requiring only the cost of labor. Should you build it yourself, this can be next to nothing. Sometimes existing fences on another property can

to build a fence, but the natural plant also can be planted to form a living fence for privacy. Stockade fencing: A stockade fence be disassembled and re-built on your own property for little to no cost as well. is one of the more basic wood fencing options. Wooden slats are placed Chainlink/chainwire: Chainlink fencing alongside one another to form an is one of the most economical types of effective and affordable privacy fence. boundary fencing. The fencing comes in Stockade fencing can be stained or a variety of diamond sizes and is fixed painted to preserve it. Many home to galvanized pipes spaced across the improvement retailers sell panels of perimeter of the property. Although it is stockade fencing so that you can make some of the least expensive fencing, it fence installation a do-it-yourself project. does not offer much privacy on its own. Vinyl fencing: Although vinyl fencing But if you are looking at fencing simply is one of the more expensive fencing as a barrier, chainlink could be the way materials at the outset (it costs about to go. twice the price of a wood fence), it does Picket fencing: A wooden picket fence pay for itself rather quickly thanks to is another inexpensive fencing material. minimal maintenance. Unlike some other The pickets can be purchased in various materials, vinyl will not rot or discolor. heights, and this fence may be used You also won’t have to purchase stain, as garden border fencing or to mark a paint and expensive cleaners for a vinyl property line between homes. Spacing fence. That means once you make the the pickets widely apart may cut down on investment, you will have years upon the number that need to be purchased, years of maintenance-free enjoyment. further keeping the cost down. There are many different fencing Bamboo: Bamboo is a rapidly growing materials that can coordinate with a grass that produces a hard wood-like variety of budgets. material that is used in many building applications. Bamboo wood can be used

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Can pools and lawns cohabitate peacefully? The backyard has become a go-to destination for warm weather recreation. As the “staycation” has grown in popularity, more effort has been put forth in making the backyard a place where all members of the household can enjoy themselves. That means merging interests into one space. A pool may be competing for acreage along with a decorative patch of lawn. Some homeowners wonder if lawns and pools can be successful alongside each other. Many question if chlorinated pool water poses any ill effects on the grass in the backyard. In addition to splash-out of water during fun times in the pool, water also will be tracked across the lawn from children and adults exiting the pool or will flood the grass when it is necessary to clean and “backwash” the filter. Will you be left with a dried-

out patch of chlorine-burnt lawn? Probably not. Healthy chlorine levels in a pool are kept so that the pool water is generally on par with the chlorine levels contained in regular tap water. You wouldn’t hesitate turning on the hose to water your lawn, so you shouldn’t be overly concerned about pool water splashing out of the pool, particularly if you are stringent about maintaining the proper pH levels and chlorine levels. Also, soil can withstand chlorine at high acid levels and is pretty resilient about self-correcting. Furthermore, grass blades are selective about which nutrients they absorb, so excess chlorine likely will not penetrate the grass blades. Chlorine also dissipates in the sun. Therefore, while the levels may be elevated upon just hitting the grass,

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over a short while the chlorine will essentially be used up and pose no additional threat to the surrounding In most cases, pool water will not damage lawns lawn. because the chlorine level is not high enough. Some people have actually said that Place stone or mulch around the watering your lawn with pool water can perimeter of an above-ground pool to be an eco-friendly way of curbing water usage. Therefore, it may be safely used catch any splashes and to create a barrier between the pool and the lawn. on lawns and most flowering plants. Also, direct backwashed water through It is unadvisable to water vegetable a long tube and have it flow it to an gardens with pool water because of any trace levels of other chemicals that area away from the lawn. Pool owners who want to have vibrant may be found in the pool water. grass likely don’t need to worry about Homeowners still concerned about chlorine damaging their lawns. In fact, exposing their lawns to pool water the lawns may flourish with the extra can create a buffer zone around the watering. pool. Inground pools are traditionally bordered by concrete or patio blocks.

Keep Safety in Mind this Spring! PLEASE DO NOT POST SIGNS on utility poles. The nails and staples used to hold signs can puncture a lineman’s protective gear exposing that person to electrical shock or cause him to fall down the pole if the climbing hooks hit a nail or staple. Help keep our workers safe!

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Cleaning gutters or trimming tree limbs? Be sure to look up for power lines before you place your ladder against a tree or your house. Do not use long-handled tools unless you see they are clear of electric lines. Planting trees and shrubs? Adding a deck or installing outdoor lighting? Call 8-1-1, Miss Utility of Virginia to have underground lines marked before you begin your project. Teach children to stay away from power lines, underground transformer boxes and the dangers of mixing water and electricity!

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The benefits of pruning trees and shrubs Pruning trees and shrubs is necessary to ensure they maintain their health and vigor. Trees and shrubs should be inspected annually to determine if they need to be pruned. Mature trees typically do not need to be pruned as frequently as young trees, which need pruning to establish branch structure. Trees and shrubs that go years without pruning can become overgrown and weak. In addition to promoting tree and shrub health, pruning pays a host of other dividends. Pruning removes dead or diseased branches. Pruning helps a tree or shrub maintain its shape and vigor by removing broken, dead or diseased branches that can be unsightly and make it more difficult for the tree or shrub to stay healthy. When broken, dead or diseased branches are removed, trees or shrubs look healthier and add aesthetic appeal to a property. Pruning trees and shrubs promotes growth of other plants. Trees and shrubs that go years without being pruned become overgrown, making it difficult for plants

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Qualified equipment includes • Air conditioners and heat pumps ($300 tax credit) - Split system central air conditioner that achieves the highest efficiency CEE tier as of Jan. 1, 2009 (16 SEER; 13 EER) - Packaged central air conditioner that achieves the highest efficiency CEE tier as of Jan. 1, 2009 (14 SEER; 12 EER) - Split system electric heat pump that achieves the highest efficiency CEE tier as of Jan. 1, 2009 (8.5 HSPF; 12.5 EER; 15 SEER) - Packaged electric heat pump that achieves the highest efficiency CEE tier as of Jan. 1, 2009 (8.0 HSPF; 12.0 EER; 14 SEER) • Advanced main air circulating fan ($50 tax credit) - A fan used in a natural gas, propane, or oil furnace with an annual electricity use of no more than 2 percent of the total energy use of the furnace • Boilers ($150 tax credit) - Natural gas, propane, or oil boiler with an AFUE of not less than 95 • Furnaces ($150 tax credit) - Natural gas, propane, or oil furnace with an AFUE of not less than 95 • Water heaters ($300 tax credit) - Electric heat pump water heaters with an energy factor of at least 2.0 - Natural gas, propane, or oil water heater with an energy factor of at least 0.82 or a thermal efficiency of at least 90 percent L. CLARKE, We hope this information is helpful, and urge you to have Custom Aire, your equipment serviced or replaced before the hot summer Heating & Cooling, Inc. months are here. More info at www.customaire.biz 804-526-0100

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underneath or adjacent to them to grow in healthy. For example, grass beneath an overgrown tree might not get adequate sunlight, which it needs to establish strong roots so it can grow in lush and healthy. Pruning allows plants beneath the tree and shrub and even those next to the tree and shrub to grow in nicely. Pruning can sometimes bring plants back to life. Shrubs that have gone years without being pruned can sometimes still be salvaged. In some instances, pruning such shrubs can restore natural and healthy growth. Pruning reduces risk of accidents. Overgrown trees can interfere with power lines, increasing the risk of accidents and power outages. In addition, overgrown trees tend to have larger, weaker limbs, which can prove hazardous and cause property damage during storms. Pruning overgrown trees reduces the risk of such accidents. Pruning can save money. Over time, overgrown trees might require professional assistance in order to be removed or pruned from a property. Homeowners who prune their trees as needed can save themselves the cost of a potentially pricey tree service. Pruning adds curb appeal. A property littered with overgrown trees and shrubs hurts a home’s curb appeal, giving prospective buyers the impression that homeowners might have been careless with regard to maintaining the whole house and not just the lawn. But trees and shrubs that are pruned and well-maintained can add to a home’s curb appeal, something that goes a long way toward impressing prospective buyers.

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Factors to consider before installing artificial grass

Lawn-care enthusiasts may bristle at the notion of installing artificial grass on their property, but many homeowners are turning to artificial grass for their homes. Men and women without a preference one way or the other might want to consider a variety of factors before installing artificial grass on their property or sticking with natural grass. Cost: The cost of artificial turf is perhaps the biggest factor for many homeowners. The initial cost

of artificial turf is considerably more than the cost of seed to grow or refurbish a natural lawn. And while artificial turf, once installed, will not require the services of a professional landscaper, saving homeowners money during the warmer months, homeowners might still want to hire a professional landscaper to tend to their trees, shrubs, gardens and other plants around the property. In addition, homeowners should consider if the presence of artificial turf may increase or lower their property value when they hope to resell the home. Appearance: Artificial grass won’t wilt or burn under the hot summer sun, giving it a distinct advantage over natural grass, especially in regions where drought and/or extreme heat are par for the course. But homeowners who prefer the look, feel and smell of natural grass might find that artificial grass’ flawless appearance is not worth sacrificing the sensory benefits of natural grass. Maintenance: Once installed, artificial turf is essentially maintenance-free. Homeowners won’t need to fertilize or mow the grass, spend time

watering it or inspect it for signs of deterioration or disease. Homeowners who do not enjoy spending weekend afternoons tending to their lawns might find artificial turf is their ideal surface. Usage: When the dog days of summer arrive, artificial turf can get very hot. Kids and pets who love to play in the yard might find artificial turf is very uncomfortable when the mercury rises, while natural grass does not heat up as much, making it a safer option for families who spend ample time playing in the yard. Environmental impact: Artificial turf and natural grass can both have adverse effects on the environment. Artificial turf is often manufactured with potentially harmful chemicals while equally harmful pesticides are commonly used to maintain natural grass. Neither is ideal for the environment, but there are chemical-free ways to maintain natural grass, likely making natural grass a more attractive option for homeowners hoping to be as eco-friendly as possible.

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