When should you leave it to the professionals?

To find out what you can do around your own home, TheJournal.ie spoke to expert Gerry Fallon.

WHILE THE IDEA of taking on a bit of DIY sounds like a good idea, knowing where to get started can be a bit bewildering.

While some people will call in a plumber or electrician at the first sign of trouble, others will stubbornly persevere on their own.

To find out a bit more about what you should be attempting, and what should be left to professional, TheJournal.ie spoke to Gerry Fallon from Expert Hardware to find out more.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but DIY is for middle aged men who like spending time in sheds. How does someone not in this demographic get involved? 

The first thing to do would be to look around the home and see the sort of jobs that you can do. Whether it be small or big, if it is a big job people might tend to sort of tear into it – which they shouldn’t really do.

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The second thing to do is to make sure that you have the right tools for the job. You can gradually build up a very comprehensive tool box over a period of time, which will probably then do for 99% of the jobs around the house.

Tradesmen can be pretty expensive. Do you think people can be a bit hasty to call out reinforcements? 

I do, people often rush to hire plumbers and electricians. Plumbers probably more so. A lot of plumbing jobs can be done at home. They are quite simple, but people are afraid to tackle them. A call out for a plumber can range from €100 to €120 – and that is just for a call out.

So is there anything that people definitely shouldn’t do at home? 

Anything electrical. Wiring a plug isn’t a problem, but if you are tampering with the system itself, the workings of the electricals in the house, I would certainly leave to the experts.

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Wiring around the home should probably be left to the professionals.

Source: Shutterstock/Halfpoint

So besides avoiding electrocution, DIY sounds pretty easy. Would fitting a kitchen would be easy enough as long as you followed the instructions? 

It is possible, but you’d want to be very, very keen at DIY to attempt that. There are so many trades involved in it. The majority of people could find themselves quite handy at painting, but they might not be so good at plumbing or carpentery. Everybody sort of excels at different aspects of DIY.

Going back to tools, how much could a person expect to pay out? 

Depends on how professional you want to be. You can get a very good range of toolboxes with a basic range of tools that would do around 80% to 90% of jobs in the house for less than €50.

We had a toolbox about two years ago and it was around the fifty to sixty mark. You will get cheaper ones – but if you’re going to the bother than it it better to really get quality tools.

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€50 is about enough for a decent tool box

Source: Austin and Zak

And what sorts of things do the have-a-go handy men and women of Ireland get wrong? 

I think they get into jobs before they realise how big they are. It is like taking a sledgehammer to a job that a hammer will do. You just have to stand back and look at it and know that you can do it before taking it on.

There is nothing worse than starting a job and then having to get in a professional to finish it off.

What are a few examples of the things that people can do around the home themselves? 

Fixing a leaky tap. It’s not a big job but again it is quite daunting. People are afraid of water leaking around the house. It is a very, very simiple job to do. There is so many videos online that do help people do these things.

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Fixing a leaking tap isn’t too hard

Source: Shutterstock/SpeedKingz

Insulating an attic. It sounds like a very big job, but it is very simple. All you are doing is rolling out insulation to cover the whole area.

Fixing a faulty lock. Calling out a locksmith, and again you’re paying call out charges, where changing a lock is a very, very simple process.

To get down to it, how dangerous is DIY? 

Getting back to what I said – anything electrical is dangerous. People sometimes might also try and go up the side of a two storey house on a ladder. They might be cleaning a gutter or doing some painting. If you are not used to it, it can be very, very dangerous. Working from height can be dangerous.

You have to realise really your capabilities. Start small, work your way up, if you’re a first time DIYer.

Any clever things people can do now we’re getting into the summer? 

Things like cleaning a deck, that is something that people are starting to do now. To clean it down and paint it up again for the summer.

Gerry Fallon’s top tips for getting started in DIY

  • Start small and identify jobs around the home that need to be done.
  • Hire in a professional to deal with the majority of electrical jobs.
  • Expect to get a decent tool box for around €50.
  • Jobs like fixing a tap, insulating an attic or fixing a faulty lock do not require a professional.
  • Avoid rushing into big jobs, as this can lead to having to call out a professional at a later stage.

Borders around your landscaping:

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Backyard Landscaping Ideas on a Budget

by Diana Smith
Home is where your heart is, they say. Well, wherever that is, there is no harm in having it gorgeously organized and decorated so that you can enjoy all the wonderful time spent there with your friends and family. Naturally, the problem of doing any redecorating or upgrading, whether it’s for the interior or the exterior of your home, is the limited budget. But, good news is this doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about your space – you can make it look absolutely stunning, without breaking the bank. It all comes down to a lot of creativity, good planning and proper organizing.

So, let’s get down to it. Go through this advice we’ve singled out for you and get an idea of how to make your backyard look super exciting yet remain functional at all times!

Photo credit: creativecommons.org

1. Start with the yard itself

Usually, when we go out in a yard, we are distracted by the patio, lights, outdoor decorations and similar aspects and rarely do we actually pay attention to the foundation that keeps the whole yard together – pavers, plants, the grass and clutter.

The best way to start fixing up your yard is to first remove the clutter that’s been visually blocking your yard and move onto bigger reparations. Old materials you once used, bikes, piles of random throwaways… all these need to find their place either in a dumpster or your yard shed.

Once you’ve cleared out the clutter, move onto fixing the grass and plants. Reseed all yellow parts of the grass to give your yard a fresh, green and appealing look. As for plants, opt for potted plants you may want to put down the paved yard path. You can even make a little garden as a part of the yard where you can plant the flowers for a colorful and natural feel. Taking care of flowers does take time, but it’s worth it.

After the basis of the yard has been fixed, it’s time to move onto bigger things.

Photo credit: creativecommons.org

2. Yard furniture

A choice of many is patio furniture. It’s easy to maintain and easy to repair. If you can’t invest in a new furniture set, repairing your old one is your best choice. Strip down the old paint and repaint the furniture in a new, unexpected color – green, dark blue, turquoise … are the best options. They are easy on the eye and fit in wonderfully with all the outdoor greens. You can even turn this redecorating into a family activity, where the whole family is involved – kids can do the painting and choose the colors while the adults will do all the heavy work. You’ll have fun and make great memories!

Decorate your seating area with some unusual colored and patterned pillows to give your yard that oomph it deserves!

Photo credit: creativecommons.org

3. Light it up

Any space looks far more charming when properly lighted. Regardless of the size of your yard, it can cost a lot of money to get light installations all over the yard. You’ll probably be able to afford a couple, but the whole place will look much better with cohesive lightning. Great news here is that you can buy Christmas lights and hang them around your yard – you will light the whole space up while at the same time making it look absolutely romantic. You can opt for white lights or the colored ones and set a truly wonderful atmosphere!

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4. Protect the yard

All the rainy days are the worst for open yard compositions. In order for you not to have to run inside at times there are a few drops of rain, get a proper protection for your gorgeous yard setting. Shade sails are probably the best options for any open yard. They are decorative, practical and affordable! You can have shade sails installed by professionals or you can do it yourself. Also, they are usually available at stores selling yard elements. However, lately, getting shade sails online is a preferable option of many customers as there are many more options there than in stores. When choosing the sails, opt for a color that will remind you of the summer or some happy time. Pair them up with the rest of the yard decorations to give your yard space cohesion.

As you can see, fixing up your yard is not that hard a thing to do. With the advice we’ve given you, we hope you’ll turn your current yard into a wonderful space for you and your loved ones!

This is Joan from Curb Appeal Concrete Landscaping Borders writing now.  I just want to show you a couple of more ideas.

Block Style Rocks Grass

Concrete curbing helps separate the grass from the mulch – or in this case, from the rock!  Contact us today for your FREE estimate within Central Florida.  We’re happy to help you come up with ideas that are unique to YOUR home!

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Is your landscaping terrible? Read this advice

Published Carson Arthur – February 26, 2015
landscaping design

So how do you choose what is right for your home?

I compare a property to a 3-course meal. The front yard is the appetizer. It sets the stage for the dinner and hopefully leaves your guests anticipating more. The house is definitely the meat and potatoes. It is the substance of the meal. Finally the backyard, which like the dessert course, finishes of the space.

Whether you’re having guests over for dinner or trying to impress potential buyers, people naturally start forming an opinion of your home from the moment they see it. That said, you only get one chance to make a first impression. For years, we were told that first impressions were made at the front door or at the front hallway. This is definitely not the case. Your front yard and landscaping is the very first thing people see when they come to your home and when it comes to home value, is definitely a smart investment.

How much of an investment should you make?

A first impression can increase your home’s perceived value by up to 7% according to a 2013 Century 21 study. That translates to $21,000 on the average Canadian home. This is a really important number. Basically, you now have a guideline of how much to spend on renovating the front yard.  If you stay under 7% of your home’s value when landscaping the front, experts say that you’ll probably get your entire investment back when it’s time to sell. Here’s where you should be spending your money:

  • A new front door – it’s the only one that has a higher return than cost (Remodeling Magazine, 2015).
  • Front walk ways
  • Well-designed driveways
  • Stone veneers – these top the list of must-haves for the best first impressions.

Before you start building landscaping into your budget, take a look at this video gallery for inspiration:

 

I love to drive through neighbourhoods and look at the landscaping and the houses. Some homeowners put a lot of detail into their front yards with shrubs, flowers, trees and even seating areas. You can tell they care for their spaces and it’s not a big leap to assume the inside of the house looks like the outside. I measure the success of a good front yard by how much I want to see the rest of the property. Other homeowners go with the standard foundation plants, an evergreen and a large lawn. While there’s nothing wrong with this default designs, there’s also nothing inspiring about these yards either. Potential buyers will even admit to driving past a home that has poor curb appeal!

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that the landscaping will sell a home. All of the components on your property need to be working together if you want to get maximum dollars…and who doesn’t want to make the most on their home when its time to sell?

landscapeanddesign

Who’s ready to think about landscaping and design? It’s never too early. We have a list of landscaping contractors who will help get your landscaping plans in order before the spring weather arrives.

Proudly brought to you by Curb Appeal Concrete Landscaping Borders, where our estimates are FREE within Central Florida.  Call today for details.

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Want to Up Your Home’s Value? Outdoor Renos Are the Way to Go

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If you’re thinking about making some changes to your own home and want to increase your property value at the same time, invest in these outdoor upgrades!

1. A new front door. This is the only improvement for the entire house that is worth more money the moment you install it! Adding a new solid steel door to the front of your home is expected to see a return of 101.8 per cent! Even I was surprised by this one. Although it does make sense. A front door for your home is like the wheels on a new car. Nobody buys a car because of the wheels, but everyone checks the wheels before they buy a car. The front door doesn’t sell a home, but it is the very first item that a potential buyer checks when walking in. If the front door is solid and in good condition, buyers assume that the rest of the home will be up to the same standards.

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2. Manufactured Stone Veneers. More companies are entering into this market everyday and with an expected rate-of-return of 92 per cent, consumers are happy to have the choices. Having stone veneers at the front of your home is a great way to add visual impact without rebuilding your house. Stone gives the impression that a home is solid; able to withstand the elements (and the children). Companies like RINOX.ca are now offering multiple styles to compliment any type of home so that buyers can customize their own spaces. The key to successful veneers is in the colour saturation. More colour in the stone means that the colour will last longer…holding its value longer too!

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3. A wooden deck. I’ve always been an advocate of expanding your living space into the backyard. For most of us, a wood deck is a simple and effective way to create an outdoor room…with an 80.5 per cent return-on-investment! Traditionally cedar has had the best-perceived value, but with rising material costs this has been changing. MicroPro Sienna, the brown version of pressure treated is poised to take over the top spot. With the rich look of cedar at significantly reduced cost, more homeowners are opting for this new style of wood over the green alternative.

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The other two home improvements to round out the top five are a new garage door and vinyl siding. Where are kitchens and baths? Major kitchen upgrades have slipped all the way down to an r.o.i. of 67.8 per cent while adding a new bathroom hit 57.8 per cent. If you do your research, you’ll find that these numbers are from a U.S.-based firm, but the experts at Century 21 Canada agree that outdoor renovations, especially improvements in curb appeal will definitely help you add value to your home!

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Remodeling 101: Five Questions to Ask When Choosing a Kitchen Backsplash

Okay, I admit that this is a little off-topic for my site and business, but.., I’m a woman!  I love articles like this and I’m sure that there are plenty of other people who feel the same (Joan).  Hope you enjoy the article!

by

Issue 7 · The New Eclecticism · February 19, 2015

Marble Hex Tile Backsplash, Remodelista

Above: Hexagonal Carrara marble tiles form a backsplash with an unfinished border. Styling by Jackie Brown for Real Living Magazine.

1. Which comes first, the countertop or the backsplash?

There’s no right answer to this question; even the experts disagree on the best approach. The key is to decide which of the two is more important to you. It may boil down to whether you have a dream material, or whether you favor functionality (countertop) or a focal point (backsplash) in your kitchen’s design.

Whichever material you choose first, there’s no arguing that the first selection will drive the second. The two materials meet at the wall line, so the general rule is they ought to coordinate or complement each other in color and texture.

Countertop First: “In my opinion, backsplashes are not the most important elements and should be selected only after other decisions are made,” says architect Elizabeth Roberts of Elizabeth Roberts Design/Ensemble Architecture. “Countertops and cabinets come first.” Not as easily switched out as backsplashes, countertops need to be hard-wearing (for use as a work surface) and are typically also the bigger investment in terms of budget, kitchen real-estate coverage, and longevity.

Backsplash First: Interior designer Alison Davin of Jute Design believes that the backsplash decision should always come first: “The backsplash is more of a focal point because of its placement,” she says. “The countertop should complement the backsplash.”

Alison Davin Jute Kitchen Terra Cotta Tile Backsplash, Remodelista

Above: Alison Davin‘s favorite combination is marble countertops in earthy/putty tones paired with terracotta backsplash tiles.

Elizabeth Roberts Warren Mews Townhouse Marble Countertop and Backsplash, Remodelista

Above: A third option is to use the same material for both the countertop and backsplash to create a unified look. Elizabeth Roberts chose veined marble for the countertop and backsplash—carried all the way up the wall—in this Brooklyn townhouse.

2. What look are you after: a statement or subtlety?

As its name suggests, a backsplash is there to protect the wall from splashes (not to mention cooking grease). But unlike the counter, it doesn’t need to accommodate hot pans, sharp knives, and food prep. So the choice is largely an aesthetic one—with many, many possibilities. Whittle down the choices by zeroing in on the effect you’re after. And keep in mind that countertops and backsplashes shouldn’t both compete for attention, only one should be statement-making.

Consider Color

Angela A'Court Kitchen Yellow Tile Backsplash, Remodelista

Above: Artist Angela A’Court introduced a bright backsplash when she renovated her kitchen. “The house is pretty much white and gray all over; I wanted a burst of color, hence the yellow Sicis Glass Mosaic Tiles,” she says. They sit between concrete countertops and stainless steel shelving. Photograph by Ty Cole. See Rehab Diaries: An Artist’s NYC Kitchen Renovation for more on the project.

Play with Pattern

Blue and White Cement Tiles Biscuit Film Works, Remodelista

Above: Contrasting patterns and textures of handmade blue-and-white Fez encaustic cement tiles (fromGranada Tile in Los Angeles) bring the backsplash to life in the Biscuit Filmworks kitchen in Los Angeles by Shubin + Donaldson (featured in the Remodelista book). The countertops are gray-veined Carrara marble. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Remodelista.

Toy with Texture

Textured White Backsplash Tile, Remodelista

Above: Neutral backsplashes can be dialed up with an interesting surface, as shown in this San Francisco kitchen by Medium Plenty that features white tiles with origami-like folds. Photograph byMariko Reed.

Explore Shapes

Blakes London Gray Backsplash, Remodelista

Above: A gray glass backsplash gains personality with cutout corners in a kitchen by Blakes London, a member of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory. It’s paired with a white solid-surface countertop and integrated sink. Photograph courtesy of Blakes London.

3. How much cleaning and maintenance can you handle?

An often overlooked issue when considering backsplashes is the day-to-day cleaning requirements of different materials. This may only be pertinent in the areas behind the stove and sink, but it’s important. Gather information about how to clean the materials you’re considering. Tiled backsplashes have grout that can collect dust and grime. Solid slabs lack dirt-gathering seams, but some natural stone materials can react poorly to grease and other cooking byproducts. And will that glimmering glass or stainless backsplash require nonstop polishing?

On Gardenista, Michelle comes clean about her backsplash maintenance issues in My Dirty Secret, or How I Learned to Live with a Marble Backsplash.

Made-a-mano-Lavastone Tile Backsplash, Remodelista

Above: Dark cabinets pair well with a backsplash of Lava Stone tiles from Danish company Made a Mano. Lava stone’s best attributes include its lack of maintenance: It doesn’t require a sealant or treatment. Read more in our Lava Stone Countertop Primer.

Research whether materials need sealing. In general glazed ceramic tiles don’t require a sealant, while natural (porous) tiles do. Sealing grout is strongly recommended.

Anstruther Kitchen Marble Countertop and Backsplash, Remodelista

Above: Worth the upkeep? London designer Harriet Anstruther‘s classically beautiful marble-and-brass London kitchen. Photograph by Henry Bourne. For more of this kitchen, see Steal This Look: A Glamorous London Kitchen from a Designer with “Shitloads of Talent.”

4. Where will the backsplash go?

A backsplash generally covers the space between the kitchen counter and the upper cabinetry. It might wrap the entire kitchen or just be a small rectangle along one wall. Consider the size of your space when making a backsplash choice. Do you have no upper cabinets and want a backsplash that reaches the ceiling? Or do you want to limit the backsplash to high-use areas, such as behind the stove, sink, and kitchen desk?

Elizabeth Roberts Beadboard Backsplash, Remodelista

Above: If there’s already a lot going on in the kitchen, the best answer may be no backsplash at all. “We decided to use painted beadboard for the backsplash since there was already so much stone, concrete, and tile in the room,” says architect Elizabeth Roberts of this Brooklyn townhouse design. See more in A Greenhouse for Living and Steal This Look: The Ultimate Chef’s Kitchen in Brooklyn. Photograph byDustin Aksland.

Amanda Pays Kitchen Backsplash, Remodelista

Above: In the LA kitchen of designer Amanda Pays and actor Corbin Bernsen, backsplash tiles are limited to the area behind the stove. The patterned concrete tiles create a focal point that complements the gray concrete countertops and white cabinetry. Photograph by Matthew Williams. Tour the Pays/Bernsen kitchen in the Remodelista book, and take a look at the adjoining laundry room .

5. What’s your budget?

Knowing what you want to spend helps whittle down the possibilities. Here are some tips to help control costs:

  • Choose classic materials that won’t go out of style. White ceramic tiles, for instance, offer a great bang for your buck in terms of cost and longevity.
  • Consider using an affordable neutral field tile or stainless sheeting for the majority of the backsplash paired with a statement tile in a smaller focal point.
  • Natural materials, such as marble, are often much more affordable as tiles rather than slabs.
  • Be flexible and look for a bargain. At tile stores and even on Craigslist, it’s often possible to find tile seconds and overstock, as well as discontinued patterns and colors at a significant savings.

Chevron White Tile Backsplash, Remodelista

Above: Affordable white ceramic field tile can be anything but boring. The tiles in this backsplash are twice as long as standard subway tiles and are installed in a herringbone pattern. For more ideas, seeWhite Tile Pattern Glossary. Photograph by Nicole Franzen.

Medium Plenty Kitchen Backsplash Heath Tiles, Remodelista

Above: A decision to use Calacatta marble (not to be confused with less pricey Carrara) for the countertops in a San Francisco kitchen by Medium Plenty required that cost savings be found elsewhere. The client found the backsplash’s Dimensional Crease tiles marked down by 75 percent at a seconds sale at Heath Ceramics. Photograph by Mariko Reed.

Ian Read Medium Plenty Heath Seconds Backsplash, Remodelista

Above: As he remodeled his own house, Ian Read, a founding partner of Medium Plenty, practiced what he preached: flexibility. “Our kitchen tiles were seconds because the color variation was more than whatHeath Ceramics typically allows for in variance and the shapes of the tile themselves were more irregular than the norm. There were also some surface pockmarks that we are more than happy to live with,” says Read. “There are different approaches to sorting the variations and you can either group like tones or randomize them. In our kitchen we went for the randomized approach.” For more tips, see Tile Intel: A Budget Remodel with Heath Seconds. Photograph by Melissa Kaseman.

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Searching for Ground Cover? Try Edible Landscaping!

Is Miner’s Lettuce Edible: How To Grow Claytonia Miner’s Lettuce

Springbeauty (Claytonia perfoliata). Norfolk, UK in Spring

Image by liamgrantfoto

By Amy Grant

Everything old is new again, and edible landscaping is an example of this adage. If you are searching for a ground cover to incorporate in the landscape, look no farther than Claytonia miner’s lettuce.

What is Miner’s Lettuce?

Miners lettuce is found from British Columbia south down to Guatemala and east into Alberta, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona. Claytonia miner’s lettuce is also known as Claspleaf miner’s lettuce, Indian lettuce and by its botanical name of Claytonia perfoliata. The generic name of Claytonia is in reference to a botanist of the 1600’s by the name of John Clayton, while its specific name, perfoliata is due to the perfoliate leaves which completely encircle the stem and are attached at the base of the plant.

Is Miner’s Lettuce Edible?

Yes, miner’s lettuce is edible, hence the name. Miners used to eat the plant as salad greens, as well as the edible blossoms and stems of the plant. All these portions of Claytonia can be eaten either raw or cooked and are a great source of vitamin C.

Care of Claytonia Plant

Miner’s lettuce growing conditions tend to be cool and moist. This aggressive self-seeding plant can overwinter in USDA zone 6 and warmer and is an excellent edible ground cover. Miner’s lettuce growing conditions in the wild tend towards shaded sites such as under tree canopies, oak savannas or western white pine groves and at low to medium elevations.

Claytonia miner’s lettuce can be found in soil conditions from sand, gravel road tar, loam, rock crevices, scree and river silt.

The plant is propagated via seed and germination occurs rapidly, only 7-10 days until emergence. For home garden cultivation, seed may be dispersed or plants set in virtually any soil type, although Claytonia thrives in moist, peaty soil.

Plant Claytonia 4-6 weeks before the last frost when soil temperatures are between 50-55 degrees F. (10-12 C.) in a shaded to partially shaded location, in rows that are 8-12 inches apart, ¼ inch deep and space the rows ½ inch away from each other.

From early to mid-spring and again in late summer to mid-fall for fall and winter harvest, Claytonia can besuccessively seeded for a continuous rotation of this edible green. Unlike many greens, Claytonia retains its flavor even when the plant is in bloom, however, it will become bitter when the weather becomes hot.

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Project Curbs Pollution and Directs Rainwater Into Landscaping

BY PAUL HERZOG

A private water retailer named California American Water (Cal Am) approached theSurfrider-San Diego Chapter’s Ocean Friendly Gardens Program about helping turn a water guzzling area of a park and its runoff producing parking lot into an example of an Ocean Friendly Garden. Cal Am provides water to the Park. Patrick Pilz, Cal Am’s Field Operations Manager, is familiar with Surfrider: he is part of a team implementing a state grant-funded sustainable landscape program, and the team includes Surfrider, another non-profit, and several government agencies such as the City of San Diego. The Chapter jumped at the chance to do a project at such a high profile, public space. They had already helped successfully retrofit half-a-dozen residential landscapes in their region over the past five years.

Water had been running off parking lot to the street, down a storm drain and directly to the ocean, carrying all pollutants along with it. The nearby turf grass was continuously watered to keep it alive. The vision was to cut a curb surrounding the parking, directing rainwater runoff into approximately 2,000 square feet of turf grass that would be removed and replaced with a swale and basin plants with natives.

The public was told about the project and encouraged to participate when they attended a California Friendly Landscape Training – a class hosted by Cal Am, taught by Surfrider partner G3/Green Gardens Group, and which promotes OFG-oriented principles! The retrofit of the park was accomplished through a series of G3-ledHands-On Workshops (H.O.W.) as well as site prep by the City Park’s Department.Diane Downey (G3’s San Diego Regional Coordinator) and Jeremy Sison (G3 certified pro, and landscape architect) are both Surfrider-San Diego OFG Committee members (pictured above, left of the pole). Surfrider-San Diego Committee members also helped publicize the class and HOWs, and Cal Am created a cool all-in-one flyer for the events. Cal Am took care of H.O.W. registration and food for H.O.W. volunteers.

At the H.O.W. on Site Evaluation, participants analyzed the site’s “health” and where to apply CPR: Conservation potential, ways to improve Permeability and strategies for Retention of water onsite. They learned that a native garden needs just 20% of the water required by turf grass. Then the group calculated how much rainfall runoff was available from the adjacent parking lot based on the area of the lot and the average rainfall (10-14 inches). There was more than enough to support a native garden. G3 also led the group through doing tests for soil type and drainage, and discussed types of supplemental irrigation such as drip.

Three weeks later, a 2nd and 3rd H.O.W. were held on the same day. The first H.O.W. covered rainwater capture as well as turf removal and soil building through sheet mulching and rain capture. The afternoon’s H.O.W. covered planting and irrigation. (The City Park’s Department had removed the grass and done rough grading, including digging a shallow detention basin.) Volunteers then completed the grading, removed and remaining grass roots, then added mulch, then installed plants.

Rocks installed at the entrance to the swale slow the flow of the water, allowing it to seep into the ground, where pollutants are filtered and water is absorbed for plants to tap into during dry months. (Once the native plants are established, they will not need supplemental irrigation from the City’s water supply.) The project team learned that the water was not infiltrating well enough, so afollow-up H.O.W. will be done on February 21, 2015, focusing on drilling a dozen holes (aka augering) in the basin, back-filling with compost tea and mulch, then installing water-loving plants (juncus) in the basin and muhlenbergia rigens (deer grass) the sides …and possibly creating some side channels.

Cal Am picked up the bill for the H.O.W.s as well as compensated the City to cover the materials and site prep. Additional funding came from the project qualifying for the regional turf replacement rebate of $2/square foot. A H.O.W. attendee got so inspired that she OFG’d her home landscape (at left).

Check out this awesome video and time-lapse of the project! Chapters can post it on their website to explain OFG.
What an awesome way to help the environment!  Proudly brought to you by Curb Appeal, Concrete Landscaping Borders!  Serving Central Florida since 1998!  Call us today for your free estimate!
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Want to UP Your Home’s Value?

Outdoor Renos Are the Way to Go

 Well, it’s finally happened! After my 15 years in the industry, I get to announce that outdoor renovations have officially replaced indoor as the top five upgrades for your home according to Remodeling Magazine‘s 2015 cost vs. value report. For all of the builders and interior designers out there, now is the time to let the landscapers shine because it is our turn!

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If you’re thinking about making some changes to your own home and want to increase your property value at the same time, invest in these outdoor upgrades!

1. A new front door. This is the only improvement for the entire house that is worth more money the moment you install it! Adding a new solid steel door to the front of your home is expected to see a return of 101.8 per cent! Even I was surprised by this one. Although it does make sense. A front door for your home is like the wheels on a new car. Nobody buys a car because of the wheels, but everyone checks the wheels before they buy a car. The front door doesn’t sell a home, but it is the very first item that a potential buyer checks when walking in. If the front door is solid and in good condition, buyers assume that the rest of the home will be up to the same standards.

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2. Manufactured Stone Veneers. More companies are entering into this market everyday and with an expected rate-of-return of 92 per cent, consumers are happy to have the choices. Having stone veneers at the front of your home is a great way to add visual impact without rebuilding your house. Stone gives the impression that a home is solid; able to withstand the elements (and the children). Companies like RINOX.ca are now offering multiple styles to compliment any type of home so that buyers can customize their own spaces. The key to successful veneers is in the colour saturation. More colour in the stone means that the colour will last longer…holding its value longer too!

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3. A wooden deck. I’ve always been an advocate of expanding your living space into the backyard. For most of us, a wood deck is a simple and effective way to create an outdoor room…with an 80.5 per cent return-on-investment! Traditionally cedar has had the best-perceived value, but with rising material costs this has been changing. MicroPro Sienna, the brown version of pressure treated is poised to take over the top spot. With the rich look of cedar at significantly reduced cost, more homeowners are opting for this new style of wood over the green alternative.

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The other two home improvements to round out the top five are a new garage door and vinyl siding. Where are kitchens and baths? Major kitchen upgrades have slipped all the way down to an r.o.i. of 67.8 per cent while adding a new bathroom hit 57.8 per cent. If you do your research, you’ll find that these numbers are from a U.S.-based firm, but the experts at Century 21 Canada agree that outdoor renovations, especially improvements in curb appeal will definitely help you add value to your home!

Proudly presented by Curb Appeal, Concrete Landscaping Borders!  Serving Central Florida since 1998.  Contact us today for your FREE estimate!

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Critical Control – Stop Grassy Weed Growth NOW Before it Germinates

KRISTEN HAMPSHIRE | February 17, 2015

It’s the kickoff to the lawn care season, and the first application in the annual series is a critical step in preventing stubborn grassy weeds. Pre-emergent herbicides go down as early as January in some areas of the country, and late spring after snow melt in northern and Midwest states. Their purpose is to provide a barrier of protection against crabgrass, goosegrass, foxtail, barnyard grass and even some broadleaf weeds that crop up in the summer, such as oxalis or prostrate spurge.

“For lawn care operators, pre-emergents are the most critical weed control they have the whole season,” says Jason Fausey, research and development specialist at NuFarm. “They really only have one opportunity to make that application, and that’s prior to weeds germinating.”

As with any lawn care application, timing is everything – and that’s tricky business when balancing a generous roster of accounts that essentially need this pre-emergent application during the same relatively narrow window of time. Specifically, that’s before weed seed germination and after soil temperatures level at 55 to 58 degrees at a 1-inch depth for four to five consecutive days.

“Timing is going to vary across the country, so the key is to monitor those soil temperatures,” says Bobby Walls, product development manager for herbicides and fungicides at FMC.

Also important are application technique and product selection. “This is where the planning comes in,” says Walls, suggesting that LCOs review their pre-emergent herbicide programs in fall, so they’re prepared to dispatch the crews once the ground defrosts.

Still, it’s not too late to seriously evaluate your pre-emergent herbicide protocol, including a review of best practices for application and understanding how tank mixing and adjuvants play into this, and other lawn care applications. Because, as Kyle Miller, senior technical specialist at BASF, points out, “The easiest and cheapest way to battle crabgrass is with a pre-emergent herbicide.”
Curb Appeal, Concrete Landscaping Borders would like to add here that we have an excellent source available to us right here in Central Florida.  We use Howards Fertilizer located near the Orlando International Airport.  Click HERE to go to their link.

Curb Appeal, Concrete Landscaping Borders

Curb Appeal, Concrete Landscaping Borders

Just add …

Adjuvants: Know what to use and when

Adjuvants are designed to increase the safety and effectiveness of a lawn care treatment, and they include a wide class of products from buffering agents that are used when water pH is not ideal, to penetrants that allow a product to work through the thick gel of a plant or down into the turf canopy. Adjuvants are most often used with post-emergent herbicides that require foliar penetration for efficacy, but they are also used when spraying fungicides or insecticides, says Laurence Mudge, manager of the green solutions team at Bayer.

“Wetting agents can help post-emergent herbicides stay on leaves,” Mudge says. “And, penetrators help the spray go down into the canopy to get the active ingredient down where you want it.”

The most commonly used adjuvants are surfactants and methylated seed oil products. These are designed to help herbicides penetrate leaves in a post-emergent application, Mudge says.

Situations that call for adjuvants include when hot, dry weather causes weeds to dry out and develop an outer cuticle. “It’s more difficult to control weeds because of the waxy surface on the weed, and that’s an ideal time to use an adjuvant,” says Jason Fausey, research and development specialist at NuFarm.

The main question to ask concerning adjuvants, Fausey says, is: Do you really need one?

Here are a few main classes of adjuvants and how they work:

  • Wetting agents: Helps wettable powders mix with water
  • Spreaders: Allows products to form a uniform coating layer
  • Stickers: Prevents product “roll-off” and helps to stick on a plant or turf
  • Penetrants: Helps product penetrate through the thick gel of a plant
  • Anti-foaming agents: Reduce foam in sprays that require vigorous agitation
  • Emulsifiers: Aid in mixing petroleum-based products with water (invert emulsifiers do the opposite)

Application timing.

Pre-emergent herbicides must be applied before weed seed germination occurs, and that can pose a challenge because there are varying environmental conditions even within a single lawn care route.

While application timing is based on an average soil temperature of 55 degrees (or some look to when forsythia bloom in the north, and dogwood in the south,) location gets even more specific than that.

Soil temperatures warm up faster on south-facing slopes. Bare spots in the turf also get warmer because they’re directly exposed to sunlight, whereas lush turf keeps soil cooler for longer.

The strips of lawn abutting sidewalks or driveways pull in heat from pavement surfaces, which ups the soil temperature compared to the rest of the yard.

“Most LCOs take a look at the calendar, but they also need to take look at the application site,” says David Loecke, herbicide product manager at PBI Gordon. “Take a look at the areas in which you need to make your application and make sure you’re timing accordingly.”

That means that properties on a route with south-facing lawns, for example, might get positioned first on the list for receiving a pre-emergent herbicide application. Or, one product might be used to treat properties earlier on in the route, while properties falling toward the end of the service cycle might get another product – perhaps one with a post-emergent mix to catch any weeds that have already started germinating.

As a rule, regions with a longer growing season will receive more than one pre-emergent herbicide application, Miller says.

For example, in the transition zone that includes his part of Virginia, first pre-emergent herbicide applications go down around Feb. 15 (depending on the weather), with a second round of product applied toward the end of March.

“With warm-season grasses further down south, you see LCOs doing up to four pre-emergent applications,” Miller says. Specifically, in Florida, LCOs might plan for three or four applications; they might do two applications in the Atlanta, Ga., area heading north toward the transition zone.

“But one thing that we notice with some of the warm-season grass is they are more competitive to crabgrass because they’re a tropical grass just like crabgrass,” Miller says. “Cool-season grasses start to get weak from summer stress and can’t compete with the crabgrass quite as well.”

Meanwhile, split applications can prolong control on a property and meet that every-eight-weeks visit window that many LCOs promise customers, says Laurence Mudge, manager of the green solutions team at Bayer.

“A lot of companies will apply a half rate, then maybe two months later they’ll come back and make another pre-emergent application,” he says. “There are agronomic and business reasons for doing that.” Some products just won’t last through summer to prevent weed growth, Mudge says. “So you need to do two applications vs. one single one because if you only do one application in February, it may run out of gas by the time you get to July and August.”

Mudge notes that this all depends on turf type and “the situation.” Mainly, lawns that have a healthy turf stand will stand up to weeds.

“You are not putting as much pressure on your pre-emergent herbicide because your turf is providing enough competition that weeds don’t germinate,” he says. Mudge also points out that fall is an important season for making pre-emergent herbicide applications for managing winter weeds, especially poa annua. (This applies to transition zone and down south.)

Mix it up

Follow these tips to make tank mixing a success.
Tank mixing is an efficiency measure for lawn care companies that feel the pressure of servicing routes in limited windows of time. Mixing a fertilizer with an herbicide, for example, can give customers green-up results while controlling weeds – a one-two punch.

Specifically with herbicides, lawn care operators (LCOs) might mix a pre- and post-emergent product going into late spring to catch any weeds that have germinated in the lawn. This can happen in bare spots in turf, areas close to sidewalks and on south-facing slopes where the soil temperatures warm faster and weeds can crop up sooner than in other turf areas.

But before you tank mix any product, take a step back and ask yourself why, says Jason Fausey, research and development specialist at NuFarm. “You want to ensure that you’re spending the time, money and effort on applying a product at the right time,” he says, adding that mixing must be beneficial for the lawn and not just for the LCO’s schedule.

Before you tank mix, here are some considerations to keep in mind.
Pick the right partner. Read the label and be sure the products you’re mixing are meant to be combined. “You need to make sure your products are compatible, and some labels will tell you what products to mix – and what not to mix,” says Bobby Walls, product development manager for herbicides and fungicides at FMC.
Do a jar test. Be sure the products you’re mixing will stay in suspension by performing a jar test before you prepare an entire tank, says Dean Mosdell, technical manager for the western U.S. at Syngenta. “Take the same ratio you’d use to apply the products then mix them together (in a jar),” he says. You want to be sure that the mixture stays uniform and no particles form at the bottom of the jar.
Mind the mixing order. Mixing is relatively simple, but it’s not a matter of simply adding products and agitating. “You have to be careful of the mixing order when you’re adding multiple products,” says Kyle Miller, senior technical specialist for BASF. Dry products go into the mix first, followed by wettable powders, then water-dispersible granules (or dispersible granules), and next flowables or suspension concentrates. (Those products have the consistency of latex paint.) Finally, you can add emulsifiable concentrates. “You add the products that are easiest to mix toward the end,” Miller says.
Get well-equipped. There is a full range of tanks available on the market in a range of sizes. Some side-injection tanks allow LCOs to customize the mix for the property, Mosdell says. “Equipment can vary widely for liquid applications, and rotary spreaders are best for granular products,” he says, adding that swath size matters in terms of efficiency on the job.

 

Improving efficacy.

Aside from timing, even application of the product is critical, Fausey says.

Sometimes, complaints from clients that weeds are sprouting in the lawn in spite of a pre-emergent application are because of missed spots during application.

“With pre-emergents, it’s really important to have a perfect barrier across the entire lawn to have perfect weed control,” Fausey says. “If there are any skips or overlaps or breaks in the barrier, you’ll find weeds that will germinate in those areas.”

Also, these products need to be watered in within an average of seven to 10 days of application. “If you don’t receive a rainfall and fail to use irrigation, the herbicide will not be released into the soil,” Walls says.

On the other hand, too much rain can sabotage pre-emergent herbicide applications, says Dean Mosdell, technical manager for the western U.S. at Syngenta. “During warm, wet springs, the active ingredients tend to break down faster in the soil,” he says, noting that “crabgrass breakthroughs” can be treated upon germination with a post-emergent herbicide.

If you’re planning on aerating properties in the spring, the pre-emergent application will still be effective. “Some of our research with pre-emergent herbicides shows that cultural practices like aerification will not affect the level of control,” Mosdell says.

Same goes for seeding, Loecke points out. “If you are planning on seeding, there are certain pre-emergent products out there you can use,” he says, noting that it’s critical to read the label because in a lot of instances, pre-emergent products can actually prevent the grass seed from germinating.

So many times, the success an LCO has with a lawn care product all depends on reading and following the label’s recommendations.

“Some products might have a larger window of application time,” Walls points out, noting that the label dictates application timing, technique and proper tank-mixing partners (if applicable). “It all comes back to the label,” he says.

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9 Tips and Tricks to Save Water in Your Garden

9 Tips and Tricks to Save Water in Your Garden

A beautiful garden goes beyond beautifying your home; it gives you an amazing space for bonding family time, activities and events, it helps improve the value of your property and investment, and in many ways than one, it helps you protect the environment in your own little way. However, maintaining a garden doesn’t come easy, it requires a lot of effort and can be draining on your budget and pocket. Usually, employing the right strategy is the key, but also not overlooking little tips that are often overlooked. Are you looking for ways to make your garden beautiful, help the environment,and save money? Then read on…

Check Hoses for Leaks

Leaky hoses can waste a substantial amount of dollars’ worth of water every month. Checking to see that everything is sealed and turning off properly is important. Also, even if you have a spray nozzle on your hose, it is a good idea to turn off the water faucet when you’re done using it. Few hose connecters are completely airtight, and even 100 drops a day can add up pretty fast. The pressure the water puts on the hose connecter can eventfully cause it to become loose or snap off as well, leading to more leaks (and a need for a new hose connector).

Be Sure Sprinklers are Aiming at Greenery, Not Pavement

Watering the sidewalk isn’t going to do you, your water bill, your plants, the sidewalks, or any unsuspecting passersby any good at all. Too many times I have strolled by someone’s front lawn, only to see a sprinkler completely missing its target. If you need to, get a professional to fix your sprinkler system. It’s worth the money, considering the amount of cash you’ll be saving not only on water, but on plants that will no longer be at risk of death by dehydration. Also, a note: Large amounts of weight on sprinklers can damage them. Cars, bicycles, and lawnmowers coming into direct contact with sprinklers can be harmful and damaging.

Speaking of Sprinklers…

Sprinklers shoot mist high into the air. This seem like a great idea, but unfortunately, much of the mist never gets a chance to make it to the plants. It instead ends up being evaporated and carried away into the atmosphere, where it will, at some point, help form a cloud. Instead of paying for even more cloud formation, try using an irrigation drip on plants that require a lot of water in one concentrated area. Sprinklers are great for grassy areas and areas that need spread out hydration among many close together, shallow-rooted plants.

And Speaking of Grass…

There are many equally beautiful alternatives to a large, green lawn. If you live in an area where grass doesn’t typically grow, try a different kind of landscape. For instance,desertscapes, which make use of small gravel, boulders, cacti, and other low-water plants, can put an interesting spin on a traditional garden. If you do insist on grass, though, try planting grasses that require less water than others, such as Bermuda or buffalo grass.

Keep Grass Blades Long

This shades the blades’ roots and gives the water a better chance of seeping into the ground before it is evaporated. A very short grass cut, on the other hand, invites dry air to rush straight to the water molecules and carry them away. Longer grass can look more elegant as well, and it’s a lot less work- you don’t have to mow it as much!

Buy Plants Native to Your Area

If you live in a naturally dry climate, plants used to being near the beach are going to need a LOT of extra water. Instead of fighting nature, try plants more suited to your own climate, whatever they may be. Chances are, your area’s yearly rainfall will be close to the amount of water the plants require. You will still need to monitor the plants and supplement irrigation as needed.

Make use of Mulch

Mulch is an inexpensive, yet highly underrated product when it comes to gardening. Spreading mulch around shrubs and bushes can be both environmentally helpful and aesthetically pleasing. The absorbency of the mulch helps slow down evaporation, so more water goes into the plants’ roots than the atmosphere. It also comes in a few different colors, requires much less water than grass, and can look a lot better than plain dirt. You can also use mulch and stepping-stones in place of concrete to create paths in the garden. This will allow rain and other water to seep into the ground and irrigate nearby vegetation. Beware of weeds, however. To keep weeds and stray plants from growing in this path, you can place a layer of newspaper below the mulch and stepping-stones.

Strategically Time Planting and Watering Schedules

Planting and watering while the sun is beating down on you will only suck the water out of already fragile plants. Planting and watering when it’s cool, however, can keep this from happening. So, add new plants to your garden in cool seasons, and water them year round after dusk or before dawn. Be sure to pay extra attention to newly planted plants to make sure they’re adjusting well.

Take Advantage of Rainy Days

When it rains, collect and store rainwater in a barrel. Use the water to irrigate your garden on dry days. If you live in a pretty rainy area, you may seldom run out of rain reserves, making paying for garden irrigation a thing of the past.

Overall, maintaining your garden will make your home stand-out, beautiful, protect your investment and the environment and give you a space for family time and activities. Maintenance could have a substantial impact on your pocket, but employing these easy tips would sure help you save a lot more than you normally should.

Proudly brought to you by Curb Appeal, Concrete Landscaping Borders.  Proudly serving Central Florida since 1997!

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Curb Appeal, Concrete Landscaping Borders

Curb Appeal, Concrete Landscaping Borders

About the Author
Tim Sparke is a loving husband, devoted father and his love for pumps and gardening come third as a pumps specialist. He also has a passion for writing and blogs at forpumps.
Photo Credit: Flickr via Creative Commons
As many of us are stretching our budgets, do you have any additional ways to save money on your lawn?
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