Archive for Landscaping and Outdoor Lighting

Landscaping Suggestions from Chuck Hirbour (Homestead Funding) -

 
 
For some, landscaping can be a simple touch-up job that slightly improves the overall look of a home. For other people, it is a work of art that requires a lot of techniques and ideas that are used to create a masterpiece. In this article, we’ll cover some landscaping tips that will let you keep your yard healthy and improve the appearance of your property.

  • When mowing your lawn, leave some grass clippings where they fall. As the clippings decompose, they provide your lawn with nutrients, which means that you don’t have to apply as much fertilizer and keep your lawn more natural.
  • Buy fast-growing trees if you want to plant trees for privacy reasons. There are number of different fast-growing trees available for sale, so you should have no problem finding the look that you would like.
  • Take some time to learn about different landscaping techniques. For example, anchor plants can be used to build continuity in your yard design. Plant texture is also important to create variations in your design. You can find quite a bit of free information online on this subject.
  • Do not worry about taking plants out of your yard. Some plantings do not work as well as you originally thought after they are fully grown; so if you decide to remove those undesirable plants, your landscape may be become more aesthetically pleasing. In addition, you can replace such plants with something more appropriate for the space. Remember: removing the plant doesn’t mean killing it. If you can’t find a better space for it in your yard you can always give the plant away
  • Consider investing in a drip style watering system. These systems are simple to install and will allow plants to be watered consistently. This also saves water, as the water is delivered in drips rather than through a sprinkler or hose which sprays water everywhere.
  • Know the precise measurements of your target work area before you head out to select your plants and materials. This makes it easier to know how much of every item you will need. This will help you save money and trips to the store.

Chuck Hirbour    Homestead Funding 

345 North Road Unit 4
North Chelmsford MA 01863

Phone: 978-251-8558
Toll-free: 866-724-2734
Fax: 978-251-8512

 

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Garden Projects for February –

It is with excitement and pleasure that I introduce another guest blogging from the Billerica Garden Club – whether you have a green thumb or not, owning a home means when that we want, when someone drives by our home, to get noticed.  It is not always about the paint or fancy lawn item.  It could be that well manicured lawn or beautiful shrubs and flowers.  It’s an expression of you.  Let’s get started.  And if you like what you read, visit their website at http://www.ilovebillerica.com/GardenClub.html

 

Gardening in February?  Yes, you can dream up a great garden this time of year and lift your spirits up.  Now is a great time to look at books and garden magazines and plan your gardens out whether it is a flower garden or vegetable garden that you are planning on doing.  Take a section at a time and work out a design plan then put in on paper and take the time to decide what flowers or vegetables you want to have there.  Books and magazines give you a great list of flowers and descriptions of best places to plant them in your yard.  Start a garden journal for the new growing season and jot down your ideas, hopes and goals for your great outdoors.   Garden journals become excellent references year after year, helping you keep track of how and what you grow, as well as reminding you of your planting successes – and failures.  If you took pictures of your garden last year look at them again and see if you need to make any changest to your garden this year.

 

Plants from last year

Did you take in some plants from last summer?  I took in a few Geraniums and they are doing beautifully (to my surprise!) blooming profusely and it is a pleasure to see this in February of course I have them in a sunny window and I also make sure I water them often.  Did you take any plants in last fall how are they doing?  Now is a good time to add fertilizer to your plants to get them ready for when you put them outside.  You could purchase a orchid to put in your house or drop by a garden center to see what plants are available.  Check out this website for African Violets:  http://blog.chron.com/lazygardener/2011/02/got-a-northeast-window-get-an-african-violet/.  I just love African Violets inside the home and I also enjoy planting Pansies outside they are one of the earliest plants and can tolerate the cold weather.  Check out this website on Pansies:  http://www.ehow.com/info_8080166_plant-pansies.html

 

If you planted bulbs last fall soon the Crocuses will be starting to show up soon as well as violas and inside a Christmas cactus might bloom again.  Consider making a plant Terrarium to test out plants see this website on making one:  http://www.stormthecastle.com/terrarium/

 

Check out this wall Terrarium at Modern Living:  http://www.ahamodernliving.com/store/pc/Roost-Recycled-Glass-Wall-Terrarium-62p385.htm

 

Those feathered friends

The first bird to signal that spring is near is a Red-Breasted Robin and they have colorful reddish-orange feathers on their breast.  Did you know that as songbirds, the American male robins can often be heard singing a lovely tune late into the evening. It has been said when night starts to fall, the last birds you will hear singing will be robins. They are usually the first to begin singing in the morning as well, when they get up to start their very active day. In terms of food, their diet consists of mainly of beetles, fruits and berries.  Check out this website on Robins it is a great read:  http://www.vivaboo.com/the-red-breasted-robin-is-the-first-sign-of-spring/   Have you ever noticed what birds are in your back yard?

 

Flower Shows, Farmers Markets and Garden Centers

You can also check on indoor farmers markets and previous summer farmers markets like:  http://www.billericafarmersmarket.org/ and flower shows like the Connecticut Flower Show: http://www.ctflowershow.com/pages/tickets.asp  and the Boston Flower Show http://www.masshort.org/Blooms-and-the-Boston-Flower-&-Garden-Show there is also a Vermont Conference check this out:  http://nofavt.org/programs/gardener-education take a class on gardening there are plenty out there to take check out this one from the New England Wild Flower Society http://www.newfs.org/learn/adult/all-classes and how about this one at Tower Hill Botanic Garden http://www.towerhillbg.org/   Visit garden centers to get ideas on how to set up your garden.

 

Winter Sowing

Winter Sowing is a great idea at this time of year what you do is make mini-greenhouses which can be made from recyclables; there are no heating devices, no energy wasting light set-ups or expensive seed starting devices.  Check out this website on Winter Sowing:  http://www.wintersown.org/

 

 

Here are more ideas for February:

*Order perennial plants and bulbs now for cut flowers this summer. Particularly good choices are phlox, daisies, coreopsis, asters and lilies. Send off seed orders early this month to take advantage of seasonal discounts. Some companies offer bonus seeds of new varieties to early buyers.

 

*Check stored bulbs, tubers and corms. Discard any that are soft or diseased.

 

*Don’t remove mulch from perennials too early. A warm day may make you think spring is almost here but there may be more cold weather yet to come.

 

*Branches of forsythia, pussy willow, quince, spirea, and dogwood can be forced for indoor bloom.  When collecting the branches from forsythia, quince, redbud, pussy willows, and other spring-blooming shrubs and trees to force indoors make long, slanted cuts.  Simply cut branches of flowering woody plants once you can spot the tiny developing buds.  Submerge the branches in cold water (like the tub) for a couple of hours or up to a full day. Then stick just the ends in a bucket of cold water about a foot deep for a week in a cool (no warmer than 60 degrees F) spot. Arrange in a vase, put in a warm room, and watch the buds open over the next few days.

Change the water every four days.

 

*Late winter is the time to prune many deciduous trees. Look over your plants now and remove dead, dying, or unsightly parts of the tree, sprouts growing at or near the base of the tree trunk and crossed branches.

 

* If bird feeding has been a favorite activity this winter, order trees and shrubs which provide cover and small fruits for your feathered friends. Consider species such as crabapple and hawthorn which can help lure hungry birds from cultivated fruits, if planted on the opposite side of the yard.

 

*Check any vegetables you have in storage. Dispose of any that show signs of shriveling or rotting.

 

*This year plan to grow at least one new vegetable that you’ve never grown before; it may be better than what you are already growing. The new dwarf varieties on the market which use less space while producing more food per square foot may be just what you’re looking for.

 

*Don’t start your vegetable plants indoors too early. Six weeks ahead of the expected planting date is early enough for the fast growth species such as cabbage. Eight weeks allows enough time for the slower growing types such as peppers.

 

*Prune fruit trees and grapes in late February or early March after the worst of the winter cold is passed but before spring growth begins.

 

* Fertilize fruit trees as soon as possible after the ground thaws but before blossom time.

 

*Late February is a good time to air layer such house plants as dracaena, dieffenbachia and rubber plant, especially if they have grown too tall and leggy.

 

*Check all five growing factors if your house plants are not growing well. Light, temperature, nutrients, moisture, and humidity must be favorable to provide good growth.

 

*Repair and paint window boxes, lawn furniture, tools and other items in preparation for outdoor gardening and recreational use.  This is also a great time to clean your garden tools and garden equipment.  Check out this video on cleaning garden tools:  http://www.5min.com/Video/How-To-Clean-Garden-Tools-5000027

 

 

Top “to do’s” for February

  • Think about last year’s garden      so you can look ahead to the new season. One of the things you will want      to do is collect those beautiful seed catalogs, find those “must have”      annuals and select some unusual varieties of veggies.

 

  • Check your tools inventory to      see if you need any new ones. It is worth spending a few months talking to      other gardeners, checking catalogs, and surfing the Internet before buying      so you will know exactly what you want and need.

 

  • Send for plant catalogs. It is      a good idea to order early because nursery inventories are usually in      limited supply.

 

  • Start indoor seeds of annuals      that require a long growing season, e.g. lobelia, petunia, vinca,      snapdragon, verbena, etc.

 

  • Prune away storm-damaged      branches promptly from trees and shrubs in order to prevent tearing the      bark and other damage.

 

  • Unfortunately, a few warm days      can stimulate plants into new growth. If you are beginning to see life in      your dormant shrubs be prepared to protect them for when another cold snap      occurs. Tender new growth is much more sensitive to cold than their      dormant counterpart. Covering large plants is difficult, but you can throw      on some extra mulch or even a cardboard box over a small shrub.

 

Zone Maps and Frost

As a rule of thumb, start most seeds six to eight weeks before your region’s last frost date.  Get general ideas of your last average frost dates from a garden map, but to be sure, give any local garden center a quick call.  Check out the Zone Map at the National Gardening Association’s web site:  http://www.garden.org/zipzone/

 

Garden Projects

Now is an excellent time to start some of those garden hammer-and-nail projects you’ve wanted to do — window boxes, planters, arbors, and more. Check out BHG.com for a list of dozens of garden projects.

 

Well I think that will keep me busy for the rest of February since I haven’t started yet to do any of these suggestions but it will be great to start thinking of gardening again and the warm spring weather I can already feel the warmth of the Sun and hear the birds singing.  So I’m off to start looking at my garden catalog for ideas!

 

 

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Hallowe’en Tricksters and Outdoor Lightin

Thanks to Service Magic here is a great tip as we approach Hallowe’en and the tricksters who may be out and about

Another year, another Halloween costume.
If you’re worried about Halloween pranks or safety in general, outdoor lighting is an important part of your defense. Burglars don’t want to break into a house where they will be seen. Installing lights by every entrance to your home and putting in motion sensor lights will do the trick.

Security systems are another good option. Studies have shown that just having the sticker of the security company on your window lowers crime, so imagine what a system will do.

Check all your window locks. Usually they aren’t that sophisticated and we forget to keep them locked. Upgrading your window locks, or at least checking to make sure everything is secure, can add to your safety.

But on Halloween this year, why not use all your safety toys to wreak a little havoc of your own? We say when those teenage pranksters come to your darkened house, unleash all your outdoor lights and security sounds.

Just make sure to pick the teenagers and leave the little girl in the witch costume alone. Just cause she’s dressed as a witch doesn’t mean she can hang. Not that we have any experience with that.

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Preventing Water Penetration – Reprint from Housemasters

In many regions spring rains increase the chance of water infiltration into basements and crawlspaces, and can even affect homes constructed on slabs. If you are in an area that is also subject to the melting of winter snow, the potential for springtime problems only increases.

Aside from river or coastal flooding, the two most common ways water affects a home are surface runoff and a rise in the water table (the underground water level).

Surface run-off includes any rainwater that flows toward a foundation from the site the home is located on or neighboring properties. It doesn’t matter whether it is water that flows off the roof, or from finished surfaces such as driveways and patios, or from the yard. Any water that accumulates near or along the foundation has a potential to seep in or cause other problems such as soil erosion or foundation movement. If the roof and site drainage systems aren’t in place or aren’t doing the job they should, even with a half-inch rainfall hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water can be directed toward your foundation – and seep into your home.

To help reduce the chance of surface water from affecting your home, attention should focus on the grading and drainage provisions. This includes features that are present and in need of maintenance or upgrading, as well as additional drainage features that may need to be installed.

To start, take a look at your roof drainage system (the roof drains, gutters (eavestroughs), and downspouts):

Do all sections appear secure?
Do the roof drains slope toward the downspouts?
Is there any staining that may indicate chronic overflow?
Do the downspouts extend at least 3 feet away from the foundation?
Have they been checked/cleaned on a regular basis?

Some roof drainage systems may typically only need cleaning a few times a year; others may require monthly cleaning to keep them clear. Many different types of gutter guards are now available offering claims that they will eliminate the need for regular cleaning. Be aware that while many of these devices may help cut down on cleaning needs; rarely do they provide full protection from blockage.

The further away from the foundation downspouts discharge the roof run-off, the less likely the runoff will impact on the foundation. Downspout water should not discharge onto surfaces where it could create a potential slip hazard from water freeze in the winter. You should also make sure downspout splash blocks or extensions don’t present a trip hazards. In some situations, the only option to prevent these hazards may be to install underground drain lines that run to the street or an underground drainage system.

Next, look at the property conditions:

Do any large areas of your property or a neighbor’s property slope toward your home?
If so, is any potential water runoff diverted by swales or collected by drains so that it does not flow near or accumulate at the foundation?
Are surface drain grates clear of debris? Are the drains free flowing?
Is the soil along the foundation sloped so that water drains away from the foundation?

The installation of swales (slight depressions in the ground) to funnel water around or away from the foundation may help in lieu of a more expensive drainage pipe system. In some cases, though, a catch basin and underground drainage system may be the only answer for control of surface water.

With time, the soil around most homes will often settle and develop depressions or a negative slope, allowing water to accumulate at the foundation. All areas need to be built-up so that there is a slope away from the foundation, ideally extending about five feet out. Mulch added at planting areas may give the impression of a positive slope away; however, it is important to make sure the soil under the mulch is sloped away as well, particularly if the soils is a clay mix.

Look for tips on addressing high water table conditions in next month’s eNewsletter.

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