Friday, October 24, 2014

Home Heating Safety Tips

 
 
by Amy J. Valdez, Battalion Chief, Virginia Beach Fire Department

Photo by Retired Master Firefighter/
VBFD Photographer Ray Smith.
Each year fire claims the lives of 3,400 Americans, injures 17,500, and causes billions of dollars worth of damage. People living in rural areas are more than twice as likely to die in a fire than those living in mid-sized cities or suburban areas. The misuse of wood stoves, portable space heaters and kerosene heaters are especially common risks in rural areas or after a significant storm.
All heating equipment needs space. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away. Supervise children whenever a wood stove or space heater is being used. Have a three-foot "kid-free" zone around open fires and space heaters.

Fireplaces
Fireplaces regularly build up creosote in their chimneys. They need to be cleaned out frequently and chimneys should be inspected for obstructions and cracks to prevent deadly chimney and roof fires.

Check to make sure the damper is open before starting any fire. Never burn trash, paper or green wood in your fireplace. These materials cause heavy creosote buildup and are difficult to control. Use a screen heavy enough to stop rolling logs and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks. Don't wear loose-fitting clothes near any open flame. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed. Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from your home and any other nearby buildings. Never empty the ash directly into a trash can. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.

Photo by Virginia Beach Fire Deparment
Wood Stoves
Wood stoves cause over 4,000 residential fires every year. Carefully follow the manufacturer's installation and maintenance instructions. Look for solid construction, such as plate steel or cast iron metal. Check for cracks and inspect legs, hinges and door seals for smooth joints and seams. Use only seasoned wood for fuel, not green wood, artificial logs, or trash. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets. Inspect and clean your pipes and chimneys annually and check monthly for damage or obstructions.

Electric Space Heaters
Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Check to make sure it has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over. Heaters are not dryers or tables; don't dry clothes or store objects on top of your heater. Plug space heaters directly into wall outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip. Always unplug your electric space heater when not in use.

Kerosene Heaters
Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), and check with your local fire department on the legality of kerosene heater use in your community. Never fill your heater with gasoline or camp stove fuel; both flare-up easily. Only use crystal clear K-1 kerosene. When refueling, allow the appliance to cool first and then refuel outside. Never overfill any portable heater. Use the kerosene heater in a well ventilated room.


Photo by Virginia Beach Fire Department
Finally, having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. And remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.







For more fire prevention  tips, visit the U.S. Fire Administration
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The Install. Inspect. Protect. Campaign is part of the United States Fire Administration’s effort to reduce fire deaths and injuries across the nation. More than 3,000 people die in home fires each year in the United States; most of which are in homes without a working smoke alarm. A working, properly installed smoke alarm lowers your chances of dying in a fire.

The Install. Inspect. Protect. fire safety campaign will help encourage Americans to practice fire safety, to protect themselves and their families, and to protect the firefighters who work each day to save lives. Research has proven that the following fire safety practices work:

1. installing and maintaining smoke alarms and residential fire sprinklers;
2. practicing fire escape plans; and,
3. performing a home safety walk-through to remove fire hazards from homes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Four Fall Plantings for a Beautiful Spring


by Kelly Dowell

Do you suffer from spring landscape envy? Does it seem like every time the weather starts warming up from winter, your neighbors have bursts of colorful blooms in their garden and you don’t? Fall plantings must take place months prior to spring so that you can reap the rewards after the chilly months.

1. Trees

Fall is the ideal season for planting trees because it encourages root growth through the winter to establish a firm underground foundation before the heat of the summer returns.

The fall season naturally brings more rainfall and cooler temperatures, so your new tree will require less watering.

However, there is a time when it becomes too late to plant trees. Trees should be planted approximately 4-6 weeks prior to the first hard frost so the roots can actually penetrate the soil before the ground becomes too frozen. For instance in St. Louis the perfect time for fall plantings is between September and November. A good resource for trees is the Arbor Day Foundation.

Another benefit of planting trees in the fall is realized with spring blooming specimens. Trees such as Redbuds, flowering Cherries, and Dogwoods show their greatest features in the early spring months and if you plant in the spring, you run the chance of missing their display.



Nurseries are prepared for a lot of fall demand and will have many trees in stock to choose from in the fall. Some popular varieties that are recommended for fall planting include Spruce, Pine, Maple, Hawthorn, Crabapple, and Honey Locust.

Proper tree installation is essential. Balled and burlaped trees tend to be extremely heavy and need to be transplanted with good technique. Call your local nursery or landscaper for a quote on planting trees this fall.

2. Spring blooming shrubs


Many people often request a flowering shrub or perennial in their landscape that they’ve seen in their neighbor’s landscape. But, by the time you decide on a location, specimen, and color, there is a good chance that the blooming period of that plant has expired!



Planning in the fall is essential when it comes to planting spring bloomers such as Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Ninebark, Weigela and Forsythia. Plan now to get full enjoyment from your spring bloomers.


3. Bulbs

Fall is the ONLY time to plant spring-blooming bulbs.
There are several popular varieties that are successful in our area here in St. Louis including:
·         Hyacinth
·         Tulip
·         Daffodil/Jonquil
·         Allium
·         Iris
·         Crocus
It is fun to plant several different varieties because they all come with different bloom times and you will enjoy your hard work all spring long! A good rule of thumb is to plant a few extra in case some do not come up.
4. Grass Seed

Over time, grass plants reach their peak and need to be replaced. Different factors contribute to the breakdown of the grass including foot traffic, heat, lack of water/nutrition, environmental conditions, pet waste, etc.

The best time to over-seed is in the fall. Mother Nature provides us with more precipitation and cooler weather, diseases are less active, and the soil is still warm.


Spring does not produce satisfactory results. Spring is the time to apply pre-emergents and your desirable grass seeds typically lose the battle against pre-emergents. Additionally, aerating is an important factor prior to over-seeding and the aeration plugs will break the barrier provided by the crabgrass pre-emergent.

Overall, the young seedlings often do not have enough time to reach maturity before the heat of the summer hits.

If you plant your grass seed in early fall, you will still have time to enjoy your lush turf during the fall! Grass seed will begin to germinate within 7-10 days!
Contact your local landscaper today if you need ideas, suggestions, or a quote for your fall plantings that produce a beautiful spring landscape!  Good resources to find one include www.loveryourlandscape.com and www.independentwestand.org
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Kelly Dowell is the Business Developer at Dowco Enterprises Inc. Dowco is a premier provider of lawn and landscape maintenance in the Chesterfield, MO area.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fall Lawn Tips - Rescue Your Fescue


Tips to keep your fescue lawn healthy and looking great

By: Jeffrey Cartwright, Owner, Cartwright Landscaping

Because of its non-invasive nature and relative low maintenance, fescue is a popular choice of grass for lawns all across the country. However, after a long and hot summer, your fescue lawn can begin to look worn down and sparse. Luckily, the warm days and cool nights of the fall provide us with perfect weather conditions to rejuvenate our fescue lawns. Fescue requires annual reseeding since it doesn't regerminate on its own.

By following these steps, you can optimize seed germination and grass growth, providing you with a healthy and lush fescue lawn.

Prep your yard for aeration

Cut it - Four days before aeration, cut your lawn short - no more than 1.5 inches high. This will ensure the tines on the aerator penetrate the soil rather than fighting their way through thick, long grass. This will also help the fertilizer and lime make their way into the soil, providing nutrients to the existing grass as well as to new grass roots.
Mark it - Using marker flags from your local hardware store, mark all irrigation heads, valve boxes, shallow irrigation pipes or shallow wiring and any other items that could be damaged by aeration.

Water it - For several days prior to aeration, water your lawn (but don't flood it) until you can easily push your index finger roughly one inch into the ground. If the ground is hard, the aerator won't be able to penetrate the soil and the seed will not have the holes in the ground and loose soil it needs to germinate, root and establish.

Get the supplies you need to do the job right

Get it - A great option for your aeration task is the versatile STIHL YARD BOSS®. With

seven optional attachments, the STIHL YARD BOSS® can cultivate, edge, sweep, dethatch and yes, even aerate, making it a great tool for your yearly reseeding tasks, as well as many other jobs around the yard and garden. Your local rental store will also have aerators available for rent. If this is your first time using an aerator, make sure you receive the proper instructions before beginning the job.
Buy it - The better quality the seed, the better the lawn. The staff at your local sod farm or lawn care store can help you pick out a blend that is best suited for your particular climate. I recommend using only Oregon blue-tagged certified seed.
Aerate it - For best results, make multiple passes with the aerator to avoid inconsistent grass growth with noticeable stand alone patches of grass. If your lawn is in good shape, two passes is sufficient. If your lawn has large bare areas, make three to four passes. The more soil plugs and holes you have in your lawn, the better.
Fertilize it - Buy pelletized limestone and starter fertilizer from your local lawn and garden store and be sure to read the instructions before spreading. A little goes a long way, so spread only a minimal amount of lime and fertilizer to increase seed germination.
Spread it - In the main lawn area, using a broadcast spreader (which spreads seed approximately ten feet to the left and right) makes the seeding process more efficient. Use a drop spreader (which drops seed straight down onto the ground) around planting beds, along gravel driveways and non-mortared walkways to prevent grass from growing in these areas.
(To see the full article, including caring for your new lawn, go to our article on Fall Lawn Care Tips.)
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About Cartwright Landscaping:
Cartwright Landscaping, located in Richmond, VA, is a full service, landscape design and installation company equipped to handle all landscaping projects. Cartwright Landscaping is a proud member of both the Central Virginia Nursery & Landscaping Association and Virginia Nursery & Landscaping Association. http://www.cartwrightlandscaping.com/



Thursday, October 2, 2014

Top 10 Tips for Fall

by David Snodgrass, president of Dennis' 7 Dees Landscaping

Fall is the time to prepare your landscape for the rest of the year, winter through summer. David Snodgrass, an expert landscaper with 40+ years in the business, offers these fall tips to help you prepare your yard this season.

1.    Fall is a great time to evaluate your landscape.  
Are there areas that are out of date, plants that are overgrown or missing plants due to insect, disease or other issues?  Does your lawn need rejuvenating, like aeration and overseeding, or entire replacement with new sod?  Fall is the best season to prepare, due to cooler temperatures and wet weather, allowing new plantings to establish quickly before winter and the next stressful summer weather arrives.

2.    With fall, comes leaves!  
Leaves are synonymous with fall, so remove leaves from your lawn regularly to prevent suffocating the turf.  Blow off walks frequently to prevent slippery conditions.

3.    Fall pruning
When it comes to fall pruning and the heat of summer has passed, take a good look at all of the shrubs and ground covers on your property and give them one last pruning (either hand snipping for natural appearance, or shearing when appropriate).  Get them ready to ‘put to bed’ for a long winter.  Be sure to cut back perennials to near soil level, once they begin to change colors, and take proper steps to ensure that your plants are not distressed from pruning, especially shrubs and trees.


4.    Prepare for dormant season with tree pruning.
Observe limbs that create visibility and clearance issues for foot or vehicle traffic.  Consider pruning to improve security.  Are there limbs that are susceptible during upcoming winter storms?  Prune now before limbs break, creating a new problem.

5.    Freshly mulched beds give a polished finish and help protect through winter.
After all pruning is completed and leaves are removed, fresh mulch gives a nice finished look for the coming holiday seasons.
6.    Fertilize your lawn
Before lawns go dormant, it’s essential that they receive a good quality, slow release fertilizer, formulated to slowly release all winter, establishing a deep root system and prolonging good color into spring.

7.    Be sure to winterize your irrigation system
Checking your valves and draining all of the water out of any irrigation components that might freeze is key to preventing damage during winter months.

8.    Replace your landscape light bulbs

As we head into darker winter months, not only does lighting result in the maximum enjoyment of your landscaping during the dark hours of winter but also improves security for your property and guests.  

9.    Add Fall color
Summer color quickly fades with a change in fall weather; consider adding fall color and a variety of bulbs for early spring color. 

10.    Plan now for the quick-to-arrive snow and ice season.   
Who knows what this winter will bring? Is your snow equipment in good working order?  Snow shovels ready for another year?  Ice Melt on hand?  Even typically warmer climates can get surprised by a winter storm, so some preparations are a good idea regardless of where in the U.S. you live.