Monthly Archives: May 2017

Learn More About Green Lawns

Herbicides, whether applied by themselves or in the form of weed and feed products that combine fertilizer and herbicide in one application, can easily run off into streams and lakes and can migrate into groundwater supplies in areas of porous soils.

Preventing Weeds in your Lawn
Weeds move into lawns when conditions favor their growth over that of turf grasses. A healthy lawn will be able to endure drought, diseases and pest infestations better than a stressed lawn. Healthy grasses can also compete better with undesirable weeds.

Promote lawn health by mowing and watering properly:

    • Mow at a 2.5 -3″ height. Taller grass develops deeper roots, an advantage during dry spells
    • Water deeply once a week. Lawns need about an inch of water a week. Supplement with irrigation only when necessary
    • Water early in the morning
  • Water at a rate that the soil can absorb

To control the spread of broad-leaf weeds, try using corn gluten, a non-toxic corn by-product. Apply at the suggested rate in the spring (when forsythia is blooming). Corn gluten will not kill existing weeds, but will prevent new ones from germinating each year that it is applied, and it adds some nitrogen to the soil as well.

Preventing Weeds in Garden Beds
For newly planted beds a two to three inch deep layer of mulch will help keep weeds down until the plants grow and shade the ground. Take care to keep mulch away from the trunks of trees and shrubs as this encourages certain pest problems. Shredded leaves can also be used as a temporary mulch. They will decompose and enrich the soil.

A “living mulch” of ground covers and/or low perennials planted beneath trees and shrubs will add beauty and shade out annual weeds.

Help for Tough-to-Weed Areas
Weeds often take root in between pavers or stones used for walkways and patios, as well as in cracks in asphalt or concrete. Manage weeds in these areas with a highly acidic spray to kill the above-ground portion of the plant.

The commercially available sprays are typically made with vinegar or lemon juice either alone or in combination with herb or citrus oils such as thyme and orange. These sprays work well on annual weeds. Pouring boiling water over the weeds is also an option. Killing perennial weeds with either method will take repeated applications to exhaust the nutrients stored in the root.

Reduce Pesticide Use with Smart Plant Choices
Head off pest and disease problems by choosing plants that have built-in disease and insect resistance.

    • Cool season grasses such as tall and fine fescues, kentucky bluegrass and perennial rye grass are appropriate for the Northeast. Choose fescues for shadier areas. Pick grass seed mixes with more bluegrass for areas that are sunny and will receive a lot of use.
    • Crabapples are a popular tree with multi-season interest. Choose varieties resistant to rust, scab and fireblight – three very common diseases.
    • Roses are susceptible to black spot, but there are some resistant varieties. Or try the hardy “landscape roses” which offer beautiful flowers, excellent cold-hardiness and are disease resistant too.
    • White-barked birches are extremely popular, but plagued by the bronze birch borer. Choose the ‘Heritage’ river birch over the European white birch.
    • Phlox, bee balm and certain asters are susceptible to powdery mildew. Newer cultivars and hybrids such as Phlox ‘David,’ or ‘David’s Lavender,’ New York Aster, and the beebalms ‘Raspberry Wine,’Coral Reef’ and ‘Marshall’s Delight’ are less prone to mildew.
    • Lilacs are also mildew targets. Try ‘Miss Kim,’ the Meyer Lilac, little-leaf lilac or the cultivar ‘James McFarlane.’

Controlling Lawn and Ornamental Pests Naturally
There is an array of natural alternatives to pesticides for controlling insects in your lawn and on your ornamental plants. For example, parasitic nematodes can be applied to the lawn to control grubs before they turn into Japanese and other beetles that eat our plants. Suppressing grubs will also help with mole problems. For specific fixes for insect problems on other ornamentals, consult the Resources page.

Lawns: The Best Way to Fertilize
Over-fertilization or applying fertilizer at the wrong time can harm your lawn. First determine IF there is a nutrient deficiency that needs to be corrected. A soil test can determine this and also give essential information about soil pH. Adding fertilizer will not solve a pH problem. Too much nitrogen decreases root growth, increases susceptibility to disease and decreases tolerance of environmental stresses.

Is the pH Correct?
Turf grasses grow best in soil that is neutral to slightly acidic (pH 6.5-7). Soils in the northeast often need lime to make the soil less acidic. It is best to apply a high-calcium or calcitic limestone rather than dolomitic limestone to avoid adding too much magnesium to the soil.

Adding Nitrogen
Most lawns that are kept green all summer will need extra nitrogen. Nearly 50% of this can be supplied by leaving clippings on the lawn. The best time to apply the other 50% is in the fall (mid to late October). Instead of raking leaves, use a mulching lawn mower to shred the leaves and leave them on the lawn. By spring they will have decomposed, adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil.

Lawns fertilized in the fall will stay greener longer, green-up earlier the following spring, and have higher energy reserves through the summer. This stored energy helps keep turf grasses healthy and more drought resistant. If you fertilize an existing lawn in mid-summer, you’re feeding the weeds.

Broadcasting up to a half of an inch of finished compost on an established lawn provides nitrogen and other trace nutrients and builds organic matter in the soil. More serious nitrogen deficiencies should be corrected with a slow-release, organic source of nitrogen such as blood meal, cottonseed meal or fish meal. Apply in the quantities indicated by your soil test while soil temperatures are above 65 degrees.

How Much Lawn Do You Really Need?
Lawns are often the default landscape, used for “something green” and perceived as low-maintenance. In reality, lawns are one of the most high maintenance and high cost elements of the landscape. Think about how much lawn your lifestyle requires and if there are areas of your yard that could become a garden of perennials and grasses, a mixed shrub border, or a grove of trees with groundcovers beneath.

Tips To Increase Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Curb appeal is something everyone should work on but is of particular importance to those wishing to sell their home. As soon as a new listing comes up, perspective buyers are going to drive by to decide which if they’re interested in seeing more. These handy tips can make your house outshine all the others on the real estate market.

  1. Be certain your house can be clearly seen from every direction of the yard. If there are bushes or trees blocking windows trim them back.
  2. Have your curtains/blinds all uniform in color from the outside.
  3. Wash your windows.
  4. Power wash the exterior of your home and all decks and sidewalks.
  5. Schedule your driveway to be sealed as soon as weather permits. If you have a stone driveway, put down a new fresh layer of stone.
  6. Paint your front door.
  7. Add new mulch and edge your yard.
  8. Repair all cracked and chipping paint on the exterior of your house. A buyer may look past this defect, but a mortgage appraiser may insist that the deteriorating paint be repaired or they will not give your buyer a mortgage.
  9. Clean the gutters.
  10. Rake your yard to remove all dead leaves and debris
  11. Cut back all the dead brown remains from last season’s perennials.
  12. If you have a front porch highlight it with a pair of chairs to sit on.
  13. Display an American flag. All other decorative flags should be avoided.
  14. Remove lawn ornaments.
  15. Replace your mailbox if it is not in mint condition.
  16. Make sure your house number is large and clearly visible.
  17. Park in your garage and shut the door. Your home will appear bigger.
  18. Buy a simple new front door mat.
  19. As long as it is safe, add new light bulbs with a brighter wattage to your porch lights.
  20. Keep in mind that your yard is the first thing a potential buyer will see. The care and maintenance you invest here will give a favorable impression for the level of maintenance in the rest of your home. A good rule of thumb: keep your yard as clean as if it was another room in your house.

Best Choices for Basement Flooring

With all the options available, choosing a floor is already a difficult process. Basement flooring is even worse because a basement more often than not presents a moisture problem that may render some flooring options nonviable. Even the driest of basements often have more humidity than the rest of the house. If you have a serious moisture problem, you may need to address this before any flooring is laid. The easiest way to check on the moisture level of your basement floor is to take a non-porous material — a trash bag works well — and seal the material with tape to a couple different places around your basement floor. Wait for 24 hours and then check underneath the material. If you can feel any condensation build up, you should get your moisture problem taken care of first.

Recommended Flooring

These are the flooring options that are best suited for basement floors:

  • Concrete Flooring — This should be, by far, your first option. Concrete floors can be stained and or painted to almost any design and look. In almost all circumstances, concrete floors are the cheapest choice you can make. Good insulation can make concrete nearly as warm as any other flooring option.
  • Stone Tiling — Not every stone material is a natural for basement flooring, but more durable stones such as slate are a popular choice for basements. The problem is that softer, faux stone may not hold up in basements and tougher, natural stone is often cost-prohibitive.

Exercising Caution

If you’ve determined that your basement is for the most part dry, here are some additional flooring options to consider:

  • Engineered basement flooring — This hardwood flooring is layered with different kinds of hardwood and often fitted with a high density fiberboard core. The flooring is specifically engineered to withstand moisture and is thinner than solid hardwood flooring, allowing for the installation of extra insulation. Nonetheless, even engineered flooring can become warped and damaged with too much moisture.
  • Laminate flooring — This flooring comprises a wood core and aluminum oxide surface. Each laminate is slightly different and some are not designed to be used in basements. Check with the manufacturer and make sure your basement doesn’t have a moisture problem; damaged laminate flooring is nearly impossible to repair.
  • Ceramic and vinyl tile — These tiling options will work for basements, but only if the sub-flooring remains dry enough for the adhesive. Take extra care preparing the sub-flooring before you start installing the tile.

Avoid at All Costs

Unless you live in the driest of climates and have ideal basement circumstances, these flooring options are generally not recommended for basements:

  • Solid hardwood flooring — There’s really no way to justify the cost of a solid hardwood floor for a below grade installation. Engineered hardwood flooring looks and feels nearly identical to its solid hardwood counterpart and will hold up under basement conditions much, much better.
  • Carpet — The most common mistake homeowners make is installing carpet in their basements. Carpet will trap moisture and is especially susceptible to mold and mildew. If you feel strongly about the feel of carpet, it may be better to throw down some large area rugs and plan on having them replaced every few years.

Learn More About Curb Appeal Tips

Curb appeal is the attractiveness of your home from the curb; this includes the home’s exterior and yard. Having a clean, uncluttered and neat appearance makes a strong first impression to potential buyers and is the key in getting them to view the inside.

Landscaping efforts, even low-cost improvements offer a solid return on investment that you’ll recoup nearly all of. Here are a few tips to maximize your home’s curb appeal.

  • Mow the Lawn – make sure the lawn is cut regularly – in some cases twice a week to give it a well maintained look. If you don’t have the time hire a service until the house is sold
  • Edge the Lawn – a properly edged lawn stands out and shows your commitment to maintaining the property.
  • A Green Lawn – if the grass is unhealthy or worn plant grass seed and water it to get it back into shape. Patching with turf is a good option for bald spots and heavy trafficked areas.
  • Trim the Trees – tree limbs and foliage should not be touching or hanging near your roofline, have them and hanging limbs removed.
  • Trim the Shrubs – all shrubs should be neatly trimmed – critical for curb appeal.
  • Add Color – plant some color to have the yard pop. Potted annuals at the entrance, near walkways and planting beds can make a big difference. Consult with your local garden center or hire a pro to maximize seasonal color.
  • Pull Weeds – remove weeds from the yard, planting areas and walkways. If you don’t remove the entire root or use a weed killer they will come right back.
  • Mulch & Stone – put a down a fresh layer of mulch and if you have stone make sure all thin and bare spots have proper coverage.
  • Lighting – If you have outside lighting make sure everything works.
  • Clear the Yard – remove all litter, leaves, sticks, and other objects that don’t complement a neat lawn.
  • A Neat Yard – coil water hoses, remove toys from the yard, get rid of broken patio furniture.
  • Seal the Driveway – have the driveway sealed and any cracks repaired.

If your yard and lawn need real help consider hiring a landscape service to get your house ready to compete with others. Again, landscaping offers a great return on investment and having a strong curb appeal is essential to maximizing value and speed of sale.

More Information About Driverway Sealing Alert

Carmen Santora, Executive Director of the Better Contractors Bureau is warning consumers contemplating having their driveway sealed that there are contractors presently in our area from out of state using unscrupulous tactics when sealing driveways.

Santora says, “The usual rule of thumb when sealer is mixed is, for every 100 gallons of sealer 30-40 gallons of water should be added. The scam artists are doing it the opposite and in some cases we have been told that some are mixing as little as 10 gallons of sealer to 100 gallons of water.” In reality all you’re getting is black, colored water that will wash off with a rain.

In one such case a caller complained (wouldn’t give his name) and said that the contractor he went with practically was chasing the sealer down the drive way, that’s how much water was in the mix. He said he went strictly on price and he should have known better when he paid $39.00 after getting two other estimates for $89.00 and $99.00. He also forgot that when he did his driveway himself a few years back that it took 4 five gallons pails at approximately $18.00 each and along with having to buy a broom/squeegee the cost to do it then was $65.00 for materials only.

Consumers should watch out for special so called deals and especially watch for out of state license plates and don’t fall for the line, “I’ve got some sealer left over and can give you a really good price”.

Remember, a good driveway sealer contractor will blow off the entire driveway, use a weed eater on the edges, cover the sidewalk between the truck and driveway to prevent accidental spillage from a storage tank and barricade the entrance when finished.

Contractors should also carry liability insurance in case of damage to your property, such as over splash on your overhead garage door or siding. Remember, the old saying “you get what you pay for” really applies with driveway sealing.