Lawn Care Tips for Fall

lawn1Taking time in the fall to prepare your lawn for the colder months ahead will pay dividends come spring and allow you to enjoy lusher, greener grass when temperatures rise again.

Providing nutrients to your lawn before cold weather strikes is good for strengthening roots and increasing the nutrients stored for an earlier spring green. While the top growth of grass stops, grass plants are storing nutrients and energy for the following season.

To determine the best ratio of fertilizer for the soil in your yard, you should utilize a soil test. Otherwise, look for fertilizer with a nitrogen-phosphate-potassium (NPK) ratio of 3:1:2 or 4:1:2.

When applying the fertilizer, make sure that you follow the application instructions and rate information on the package and use a calibrated spreader to apply the correct amount. It is also a good rule to apply the fertilizer in the fall about 2-3 weeks before the ground freezes so the plant can start to take up some of the nutrients.

Instead of pacing the yard with a push spreader, consider a tow-behind spreader attached to your riding lawn mower or garden tractor. An attachment, such as a pull-type spin spreader , can quickly distribute fertilizer evenly across your yard.

Aerating, the process of removing plugs of soil and thatch from the lawn, is ideal in cooler months. It encourages deep rooting, improves water and nutrient penetration, and promotes growth of beneficial soil microorganisms. There are a variety of techniques you can use to penetrate the soil such as spiked shoes or spray-on liquids, but to most effectively aerate soil, attach a de-thatcher, or a plug aerator behind a riding mower or tractor to remove plugs of soil from two to three inches deep.

If you prefer not to rake or bag grass or leaves, mulching with a mower is an ideal alternative. Be sure to mulch leaves only when they are dry to avoid damp and wet leaves clumping or building up under mower decks.

Remember that grass needs sunlight in the fall to help store food for winter, so don’t wait until your lawn is completely matted down with leaves to mulch. A thin layer of mulched leaves is ideal and helps add nutrients to the soil, reducing the need for fertilizer.

Selecting the right mower with mulching attachments or features can save a great deal of time and help ensure a consistent layer of mulch across the yard. For example, John Deere 100-Series lawn tractors have three-in-one mowing decks, which allow you to choose to mulch, bag or allow side-discharge.

Creating a compost pile allows you to turn organic material into rich soil. The fall season is a good time to create a compost pile with decaying yard matter, such as vegetables, grass clippings and leaves, which can provide nutrient-rich soil for spring planting. For best results, alternate layers of “brown,” or high carbon materials, with grass clippings.

Using a rear bagger with your lawn mower or tractor will help make collecting grass clippings a breeze, and adding to your compost pile is as simple as backing up to the spot and unloading. Another optional mower attachment, the lawn sweeper, brushes leaves into a hamper, much like a broom and dustpan.

Taking these steps will prepare your lawn for the winter and help it come back strong, healthy and beautiful in the spring.

Fire Safety Room by Room

fire2 Home fires may seem like the kind of event that happens to someone else, but the reality is, it could easily happen to you.

Approximately every three hours a home fire death occurs somewhere in the nation, according to the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). Take action now to make sure your home is safer, and that your family knows what to do in case a fire does break out. And don’t stop there—share some positivity in your community by reminding family and friends to change the batteries in their smoke alarms when they change their clocks this fall.


Make a Plan 

When a home fire occurs, you have very little time to get out. Having an escape plan that everyone is familiar with is a critical part of saving lives. Yet only 23 percent of U.S. families have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan to ensure they could escape quickly and safely.

• Draw a floor plan of your home and find two ways out of every room. Sketch the exit routes clearly on the floor plan.

fire3• If an upstairs window is one of the escape options, make sure you have a fire escape ladder long enough to reach the ground. Make sure every adult knows how to use it. Adults should be responsible for helping younger children.
• Assign an outside meeting place, so that if the family escapes from different routes, you can quickly locate each other.

Room by Room 

The peak time for home fire fatalities is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., when most families are asleep.
• Do not trap electrical cords against walls. Heat can build up, posing a fire hazard.
• Use only lab-approved electric blankets and warmers. Make sure cords are not worn or coming apart. Do not leave electric blankets switched on all night unless they are marked “suitable for all night use.”
• Keep bedding, curtains and other combustible items at least three feet away from space heaters.
• Never smoke in bed.
• Replace mattresses made before the 2007 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard. By law, mattresses made since then are required to be safer.
• Have a working smoke alarm in every bedroom and outside each sleeping area.

Living Room
• Do not overload electrical outlets.
• Never run electrical cords under carpets.
• Check all electrical cords for fraying or other signs of damage.
• Only light decorative candles when adults are in the room. Use stable candle holders that will not catch fire. Blow candles out when you leave.
• During a power failure, do not use candles or oil lamps for light. Keep battery operated flashlights and lanterns in easily accessible places.
• Candles used for light in the absence of electrical power cause one-third of fatal home candle fires.
• Make sure you have a working smoke alarm in each room, including the living room.

Cooking equipment is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries in the United States, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
• Never use extension cords to plug in cooking appliances. They can overload the circuit and start a fire.
• Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
• Keep anything that can catch fire away from the cooktop. This includes potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels and curtains.
• Keep the cooktop, burners and oven clean.
• Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire. Wear short, close-fitting clothing or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.

• Store all combustible materials away from regular sources of heat, such as water heaters, space heaters, boilers and furnaces.
• Keep wood finishes, spray paint, paint thinners and other flammable products in a dedicated storage container with a closed door.
• Store all combustible materials in their proper containers and be sure they are clearly marked.
• Keeping the garage tidy can also help keep it safe. Get rid of stacked boxes, newspapers, recycling and trash. They can be instant fuel for a fire.

10 Investment Tips for Buying a Vacation Home

vac5If you’re looking for an escape from the day to day hustle and bustle or a place to have your kids let loose on the beach for a couple months each year, a second home as a vacation home might be in the cards for you. It’s a wonderful thing to have a vacation home for a family getaway or a couple’s retreat. Second homes are more common these days for personal use as well as a long term real estate investment. No matter the state of the market, a vacation home is a desirable addition to your real estate investing portfolio.

Vacation home spots are a personal choice. Many flock to the shore for a beach vacation home to relax the day away, and some more adventurous types might be in the market for hiking or a snowy ski locale. Vacation homes can be easily found across the country if you know where to look. Don’t just consider the mainstream hot beach vacation home areas or the luxury home areas. Lesser known spots are up and coming vacation home towns so read more and find out where to look for your second home or vacation beach house of your dreams.

vac11. View the home as a form of recreation, not an investment.
If you buy one, make sure, above all, that this is a house and an area you enjoy. It will be worth the cost if you spend as much time there as possible, put your heart and soul into caring for it or plan to keep the home in the family for future generations.

2. Approach joint property investments carefully.
These types of agreements can start wars even in the warmest families. Set down some rules about the percentages of ownership accorded each party and what rights those percentages confer.

3. Don’t buy outside the country.
In other countries, rules about title and ownership are not as clear as they are in the United States. In many countries, you run the risk of your property being ransacked or nationalized.

vac34. Research all four seasons before you buy.

It’s a good idea to visit the area in which you plan to buy during every season.

5. Make sure the house and location make a good rental.
If you’re really going to work to rent out the property, make sure it’s well suited for vacationers.

6. Work with an agent who knows the area.
The agent can also be a great resource for little-known information on hidden bonds and community events.

vac27. Don’t buy a timeshare.
Even in a good economy, it’s hard to sell a timeshare.

8. Buy an existing home instead of land.
To build a house from the ground up, you may have to deal with coastal authorities, local building restrictions, aggressive homeowners associations and sketchy contractors.

9. Factor in extra costs.
In additional to the loan, you’ll have to cover taxes, insurance, maintenance and utilities. If you live more than an hour away, you might have to factor in the cost of a caretaker or property manager.

vac410. Buy only what you can afford.
You simply enter what you make and what you owe, and the calculator will tell you how much more the banks will lend you.

Are The Characteristics of Your Home in Sync with You?

I would always encourage homeowners to step back and consider how other people might describe your home. Are the characteristics in sync?

For a house to truly become a home,  it must have a soul that mirrors the authenticity and individuality of the homeowner.

Typically people choose their interior design based on current trends or affordability. But in order to truly create a fulfilling home, it’s essential to make sure the space embodies its own, original self.

So here are some tips and ideas to help create a home that truly reflects your personality:

hues1* Choose Your Hues: Choose interior colors and hues that correspond with your personality. For instance, a very calm and tranquil person may consider using watery colors; an energetic person may want to play with bright tones; while a dramatic, yet sophisticated person can opt for rich, deep shades such as an Eggplant purple or maroon. After you decide on the color schemes, it’s key to take a moment and envision yourself living within the realms of those colors.

* Celebrate Your Prized Possessions: From family heirlooms to trophies, everyone has belongings with priceless personal value. To help reflect your history and achievements, utilize these items as focal points in the home. These pieces can set the foundation for a room’s color schemes, furniture, and overall style.

hue2* Echo Your Lifestyle: Comfortable seating, ottomans, dim lighting, and matching blankets help to ensure a relaxed attitude. For an extravagant and inviting room, go bold with intricate details. Statement pieces, like an elegant chandelier, make the room lively and stimulating. Slipcovers with varying patterns are also a great way to keep guests ‘wowed’ and allow you to alter a room to fit all occasions.

* Signature Scents: Scents have the potential to serve as a powerful memory trigger, so choose smells corresponding with enjoyable times. With so many different options available, the perfect scent could be the final step in embodying yourself within your home.

When Disaster Strikes, Will your Pets be Safe? Preparedness Tips for Pet Parents

dog1Americans living in areas prone to severe storms, floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters may be well aware of the philosophy, “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” Families with a disaster plan in place will be better equipped to stay safe and recover from an emergency. Too often, however, even the best planners forget to include provisions for the four-legged members of the family.

“When disaster strikes, families may not have much time to act,” says Dr. Ellen I. Lowery, associate director of U.S. professional and veterinary affairs at Hill’s Pet Nutrition. “While organizations like Hill’s, through our Disaster Relief Network, strive to help families and pets in the wake of natural disasters, it’s important to have a disaster plan ready, including a well-stocked Pet Emergency Go-Kit with food, water and other essentials for your pet.”

Dr. Lowery offers some guidance for putting your “Pet Emergency Go-Kit” together:

* Include first aid supplies and a first aid guide book for pets.

* Keep three-day supplies of both your pet’s favorite food – in a waterproof container – and bottled water.

* Store an extra safety harness and leash because even the best-behaved pet may be frightened in an emergency, causing him to run and hide.

* Include waste cleanup supplies. It’s important to properly dispose of pet waste to avoid adding health concerns to an already difficult situation.

* If your pet is on any medications, keep a few days’ worth in your kit. Also include an up-to-date copy of medical records, as well as contact information for your veterinarian and additional veterinary and pet care organizations in your area.

* You should have a brief, written explanation of your pet’s feeding routine, personality and any behavioral issues. In a disaster, your pet may receive care from someone who doesn’t know him as well as you do.

* Don’t forget comfort – include a few toys and a favorite blanket to keep your pet comfortable.

dog2Keep your Pet Go-Kit somewhere readily accessible in an emergency. Be sure your pet always wears his/her identification – a microchip or collar ID tag with up-to-date information may help reunite you with your pet if you become separated in the confusion of a disaster scene.

If an impending disaster requires you to evacuate, take your pet with you. Be aware of your pet’s favorite hiding places so you’ll know where to look when you’re in a hurry to leave.

Before disaster strikes, identify locations where you could take your pet during an evacuation; not all disaster shelters for people will be open to pets. Look for pet-friendly hotels or motels, or ask relatives and friends if they could accommodate you and your pets.

Despite your best efforts, it may not be possible to take your pet with you. To alert first responders to the possible presence of a pet in the house, place a pet rescue decal on your front door or window. It should include your veterinarian’s contact information and any special notes about your pet’s personality or medical needs. Carry a picture of your pet in case you become separated.

Roof Color Helps Define a Home’s Style

Does a green polymer tile roof work with a red brick house? Not likely. Will that same green roof be a better match for a white clapboard home? Absolutely.

“Selecting roofing colors that complement the rest of the home’s exterior can be challenging for some people,” says Kate Smith, CMG and owner of Sensational Color. “While people have the freedom of color choice these days with the vast multitude of synthetic roofing colors and blends available in the marketplace, there are certainly some fast and easy guidelines they can keep in mind.”

Smith, who is the DaVinci Roofscapes resident color expert consultant, recommends the following guidelines when matching polymer roof colors with different style homes.

roof1jpgGreen roofs look best with homes that have natural wood siding, or are painted gray, white or a lighter green color than the roof itself. Avoid red or colors that are very “warm” for the siding or brick, although these bright colors could be used as an accent, such as for a front door or shutters.

Brown roofs complement houses painted in tan, yellow, cream, off-white or a different shade of brown. Brick homes that have a yellow or brownish color cast to the bricks can also look good with a brown roof. Stay away from using a brown roof if you have a home with “cool” colors on the main body, such as blues and grays.

roof2Black roofs provide an anchor for tall homes by helping visually lower the roof and making the home look wider in contrast to the siding color and trim. A black roof has a strong link to homes painted in gray, blue, green or white and can also be used with a brick exterior. Try to avoid a black roof if you have a single story or smaller home, because the black can seem too weighty for a smaller structure.

Gray roofs are an ideal complement to more traditional style homes and can also be used on blue, green, black or white house colors. Bolder accent colors for trim, shutters or the entryway door can broaden the visual appeal of the home with a gray roof.

roof3Terracotta color roofs work exceptionally well with stucco and brick homes, along with stone and those houses with a mixture of exterior materials. White is a classic color to use with a terracotta roof. The high contrast between the body and roof colors looks crisp and clean together, and is often a choice for warmer climates.

Red roofs match up beautifully to accent gray or warm brown house colors. Consider a red roof for a white or cream exterior to create a country look for a home.

“Depending on the style of a home, as much as 40 percent or more of the visual you get when looking at a house is the roof,” says Smith. “The more roof that is shown, the more important it is to allow the roof color to help define the home’s style.

roof4“I’m a great fan of color blends for roofs. When you select blends with different shades of a color or two in it, the entire roof seems to merge and unify the home exterior. This softens the roof visually and provides the homeowner with more long-term options for accent colors to ‘pull out’ from the roofing blend color.”

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If Your Tree Falls Onto Neighbor’s Property, Are You Liable?

trees1If your tree falls onto a neighbor’s property, it might not make a sound, but you may be liable.

Trees can fall for any number of different reasons: construction, heavy storms, and even just the natural end of a tree’s life.
But in each of these situations where your tree topples onto your neighbor’s property, when are you liable? Here’s a general overview:

Construction Accidents

trees2Often, a tree on your property will crash into your neighbor’s property as a result of building or construction on your property. If, as a result of your own negligence while performing construction on your property you knock over your own tree, you will likely be held liable for the damage to your neighbor’s property.

Even if a construction contractor you hired is the one who caused your tree to fall, you may still be held liable, as long as your neighbor can prove that your negligent direction led to the tree’s demise. However, many licensed contractors will have liability insurance that will cover these sorts of damages, so you may not have to.

Extreme Weather

Trees are often tossed around like matchsticks in a heavy storm, and a solid lightning strike can slay even the healthiest tree.

Homeowners are generally not responsible for extreme natural conditions that cause otherwise healthy trees to fall onto a neighbor’s property. These “acts of god” (also called “force majeure”) are outside of a homeowner’s ability to predict or prepare for, and damage from these natural events is typically not a homeowner’s responsibility.

However, if an old or diseased tree rolls into a neighbor’s yard after a slight gust or light storm, the tree owner may be liable. Why?

Dying or Unsafe Trees

trees3A property owner often has a duty to inspect his or her property for hazardous conditions, and even without man’s help, trees can become a hazard. A lawyer writing for The Washington Post noted that the general rule for liability hinges on whether the tree owner “knew or should have known that his tree was unsafe.”

So if you failed to make reasonable inspection of your property, and a diseased or dying tree tips onto your neighbor’s land, you’re likely to be held liable. This is especially true if your neighbor has alerted you to the dangerous condition of the tree.

Take good care of your trees, and you should have much less liability to worry about when they fall.

(Courtesy Brett Snider, Esq.)