Gunning Daily News

Cool New Concepts for Gardening

April 23, 2012 5:48 pm

(ARA) - One of the driving forces in gardening is many American's pursuit of healthier eating and greener living. This means that the new face of gardening has begun to change considerably in recent years. Today's gardeners are younger and more urban than traditional gardeners, therefore, making unique impressions on the green world.

So, what's cool about gardening?

From growing vegetables in the front yard to creating an edible wall of green on the balcony, gardening is not limited to just a half-acre plot in the country anymore. Now, gardeners use any space available for a garden, no matter how urban or small. The key is adding individuality or personality to the garden in the form of handmade sculptures, water features, bird feeders or even the variety of unique heirloom plants that are used. Sustainability is also very important. Plants that serve a dual purpose— like low-growing thyme used as a ground cover in a small area or a cucumber plant that has been trained to grow up a trellis as a green screen—are excellent examples of how many gardeners have transformed traditional ideas of gardening. Looking at gardening and plants in new ways can lead to some great discoveries —and may even increase the productivity of a green space.

How can you join in the gardening movement? Here are some helpful tips to get started.

Maximize space:
Even if you only have a window, and no outdoor space, you can have a garden. An herb garden, like the Miracle-Gro Culinary Herb Kit, can be grown on a window ledge in the kitchen. No ledge? No problem. Just hang a hook from the ceiling and grow your plants in a hanging basket. For those with little outdoor space, try container gardening on the patio or use an outside fence or railing to grow a vertical garden. Simply hang pots on hooks or create your own "living wall" using chicken wire, coconut fiber lining and a quality potting mix. Then, plant trailing produce or flowers and watch your wall grow. If you have a sunny space in the yard, create a small garden using the new Miracle-Gro Ultimate Raised Garden Bed. This easy-to-use kit snaps together and can easily be customized to fit in nearly any space. Simply add nutrient-enriched soil, like Miracle-Gro Expand N Gro or Potting Mix, and plant the garden on a patio, deck, rooftop or balcony.

Redefine terms:
Produce plants are for vegetable gardens and landscaping plants are for the front yard ... right? Not necessarily. The great thing about gardening is that the only necessary rules are the ones Mother Nature created: plants need sunlight, water, food and soil with good drainage. Other than that, do not be afraid to mix it up. Plant vegetables in the front yard, use strawberries in a hanging basket or plant an herb for groundcover along a path. Tomatoes will grow beautifully next to marigolds and sage will add a nice contrast when grown in a container alongside yellow daisies. Grow what you like that will thrive in your climate, even if it is not what your neighbors are growing.

Stay true to yourself:
If your favorite color is blue, then plant blue flowers. If you love salsa, then plant a "salsa garden" with tomatoes, cilantro, onions and jalapenos. Add your own touch and make it personal. The materials used can represent your style and add interest in the garden as effectively as what is planted. With adequate drainage, even an old toolbox can come to life with some potting soil and impatiens. Collect stones and small objects with kids to make garden sculptures or bird feeders that the whole family can enjoy. Green plastic bottle caps can be turned into ornamental "trees" and grandma's cracked tea cup could become a bird feeder with a little imagination. If you have extra produce, make sure to share it. Friends, neighbors, family and even many local food pantries will take donations of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Experiment:
Although gardening can be seen as a science, it should also be looked as an art. Gardeners should feel free to experiment and express themselves through their gardens. Let your green space reflect your home, your interests and your individuality. Make it a tradition to try at least one new thing every year and you may be surprised how much you learn along the way.

Car Troubles? How the New Car Lemon Law Can Help You

April 23, 2012 5:48 pm

Car troubles are always a pain. While it may be a financial burden when your old vehicle starts acting up, when it’s a brand new car that’s malfunctioning, it can be a major source of stress and aggravation as you deal with the dealer who sold you a lemon. According to Findlaw.com, just because you personally believe the car to be a lemon doesn't mean the law necessarily agrees with you.

Each state has enacted its own set of "lemon laws" to deal with the problem of irretrievably malfunctioning new cars. Some states also protect the purchase of used cars. Findlaw.com put together the following general guidelines for determining whether your car qualifies as a "lemon," and therefore whether you are afforded protection under consumer protection laws. 

While you can handle the problem yourself using the guidelines below, if you find the process too difficult or the manufacturer is acting inappropriately, you can contact an attorney with experience dealing with lemons and manufacturers, who will fight for your rights. 

What Qualifies as a Lemon?
Under the law of most states, for a vehicle to be considered a lemon, the car must 1) have a "substantial defect," covered by warranty, that occurs within a certain time after purchase, and 2) continue to have the defect after a "reasonable number" of repair attempts. What exactly constitutes a substantial defect or a reasonable number of attempts varies by state, so it is incumbent upon you to determine the law in your state. 

Substantial Defect
A substantial defect is a problem—not caused by the owner's use of the car after purchase—that impairs the car's use, value or safety. In most states, the defect must be covered under express warranty and affect a serious function or expectation of the car. For example, faulty steering or brakes qualify as a substantial defect because they affect vehicle safety, while a loose glove compartment hinge does not qualify because it is a minor problem that doesn't affect a significant function or expectation of the car. 

But what about the wide range of problems that fall somewhere between faulty brakes and loose hinges or radio knobs? The legal line drawn between "substantial" and minor problems isn't always clear and varies from state to state. Problems like a poor paint job may not seem like a substantial problem to some people, but many states have found these conditions to constitute a substantial defect. 

No matter what state in which you reside, the defect must occur within a certain time period or certain number of miles. 

Reasonable Number of Repairs 

If your car has a substantial defect as outlined above, the dealer and/or manufacturer is then given a reasonable number of attempts to repair the problem before the car can be declared a lemon. 

Generally, four repair attempts is considered reasonable, although this number may be as low as one attempt if the problem is a serious safety defect. Most states also have provisions which state that if a vehicle is in the repair shop for a certain number of days per year to fix substantial defects, the car may be deemed a lemon. 

Federal Consumer Protection
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is a federal law that protects the buyer of any product that costs more than $25 and comes with a written warranty. The Act is designed to prevent manufacturers from creating grossly unfair warranties, and also allows a consumer bringing an action under the Act to recover any attorney's fees incurred during the lawsuit. If you feel that the terms of the warranty are grossly unfair, you should contact an attorney, who can advise you as to whether the terms rise to the level of grossly unfair.
Protection for Used Cars
While the above information covers new car sales and leases only, some states have a lemon law that covers used cars as well. Some states cover vehicles purchased that have logged a certain mileage, others cover only cars which have been sold once, and still others extend protection only if the used car would have been covered by the original warranty. You will have to investigate the laws of your state to determine whether your used car is protected your state's lemon law. 

Consumer Remedies—Refund or Replacement Vehicle
If your car meets the criteria for 1) a substantial defect, and 2) reasonable number of repair attempts, then you qualify for lemon law protection and have the right to get either a refund or a replacement car. You must first notify the manufacturer of the defect (though they should already have notice because of the attempted repairs), and if you are not offered a settlement to your satisfaction, you will likely be required to go to arbitration before you can sue the manufacturer in court. 

Arbitration Process
Lemon law arbitration is a free, non-judicial (out of court) process in which either a panel or a single arbitrator analyze both sides of the dispute and reach a decision about what remedy to award you. 

Depending on state law, either the manufacturer will choose or you may select a state consumer protection agency program (although this option is becoming rare). If you have the option of choosing, the state program is preferable because they are less likely to be influenced by the manufacturer.
 
Arbitration decisions in most states are binding upon the manufacturer but appealable in court by the consumer. In other words, if you don't like the arbitrator's decision, you can to sue the manufacturer in court if you wish. On the other hand, if you decide to accept the arbitrator's ruling, the manufacturer cannot appeal and that is the end of the case. 

While you can appeal the arbitration ruling, you should be as prepared as possible in order to come to a quick and inexpensive resolution (attorneys charge hundreds of dollars an hour, while lemon law arbitration is free). Consumers who bring substantial documentation of their claims tend to do better than those who appear at the arbitration with little evidence. You should bring receipts and service records demonstrating how often the car has been in the shop; documents such as phone records indicating how often you contacted the dealer about the problem; and any ads or brochures that the car manufacturer may have created touting its product (manufacturers will most likely be held to the standards they claim in advertising). 

For more information, visit www.findlaw.com.


Word of the Day

April 23, 2012 5:48 pm

Depreciation. Gradual decline on paper in market value of real estate, especially because of age, obsolescence, wear and tear, or economic conditions.

Question of the Day

April 23, 2012 5:48 pm

Q: Do state and local governments offer home improvement programs?
A: Just about every state now offers loans for renovation and rehabilitation at below-market interest rates through its Housing Finance Agency or a similar agency. Call your governor’s office to get the name and phone number of the agency in your area.

At the municipal level, many cities also have programs for special improvements to certain blocks and neighborhoods they are trying to spruce up. Call City Hall, as well as a Community Development Agency in your city.

Curb Appeal from the Ground Up

April 20, 2012 5:06 pm

When it's time to sell your home, you want to do everything you can to make it enticing to potential buyers. One of the most important things you can do is boost your home's curb appeal. 

In fact, the National Association of REALTORS® says that curb appeal sells 49 percent of all homes. To help you build curb appeal from the ground up, TruGreen and Jason Cameron, licensed contractor and TV host, have teamed up to give you some simple, doable tips to improve your lawn and landscape. 

Water Right
Improper watering can be a big drain on curb appeal. Check the working condition of sprinkler heads and water lines to make sure they're working properly. To ensure your manual or automated watering system covers the landscape efficiently, set a one-inch deep empty food can in the middle of your lawn so you can measure the depth of water collected each watering cycle. In addition: 

• Don't over water. Watering too much can result in shallow plant roots, weed growth, storm water runoff, and the possibility of disease and fungus development. Give your lawn a slow, steady watering about once a week. Adjust your watering schedule depending on rainfall, as well as your grass and soil type. Trees and shrubs need longer, less frequent watering than plants with shallower roots.
• The best time to water is early morning, between 4 and 7 a.m. This helps reduce evaporation, since the sun is low, winds are usually calmer and temperatures cooler. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that you can lose as much as 30 percent of water to evaporation by watering midday. Always be mindful of local water restrictions.
• Take advantage of rain. Let nature water your landscape as much as possible. Rain barrels are a great way to harvest rain for watering your plants later on -- and it saves you money on your water bill, too. 

Complement with Color
Create an instant pop of color to help your home's curb appeal bloom this spring. Consider your home's exterior when selecting flowering plant combinations for plant beds, window boxes or front porch planters. With a white house, any color combination will work well. With a yellow house, red or pink blooms tend to complement best. 

Here are some other colorful tips to keep in mind:
• For a calming effect, use cooler colors like blue, green and purple. They blend into the landscape for a peaceful look.
• Bold colors add excitement to the landscape. Warm yellows, oranges and reds make the garden lively. Yellow reflects more light than other colors, so yellow flowers will get noticed first.
• To brighten up a dark or shady corner, use pale colors, like pastel pinks and yellows.
• Not all color needs to come from flowers. Foliage can be a great landscape enhancer, so look for colorful grasses and plants like silvery lamb's ear, variegated hostas, and Japanese painted ferns. 

Grass vs. Weeds
Weeds are plants growing where you do not want them to grow. They can be unsightly in both your lawn and landscape beds. 

Grassy weeds can be subdivided into annual and perennial grasses. Annual grassy weeds, such as crabgrass and annual bluegrass, are generally easier to control than perennial grassy weeds like dallisgrass and bentgrass. Left uncontrolled from seed, crabgrass alone can choke out desired turfgrasses and develop ugly seed heads in the summer and fall that lay the groundwork for next season's crop. 

No matter what your weed problems are, a lawn care approach that works in one region of the country doesn't necessarily work the same in another area. 

Source: www.TruGreen.com.

Getting the Dirt on Dirt for Healthier, Happier Kids

April 20, 2012 5:06 pm

Dirt is a four-letter word to many moms, but letting your kids get dirty is actually good for them according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation, "The Dirt on Dirt: How Getting Dirty Outdoors Benefits Kids." 

Fears about dangers lurking in the muck—microbes, parasites and amoebas, oh my!—keep some parents from letting kids do what comes naturally, which is to go outside and get dirty. 

But here's a dirty little secret: Children who spend the better part of their free time in the company of their sterile hi-tech gadgets rather than playing outside, are more vulnerable to obesity, ADHD, vitamin D deficiency and depression. 

There's a growing body of research that suggests overprotecting kids from dirt and germs may actually inhibit their physical health and resilience. Activities kids love, such as making mud pies, splashing in puddles and rolling down hillsides are actually a grubby prescription for health and happiness. 

• Children's stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces, according to a 2004 study in the American Journal of Public Health.
• When children are exposed to germs and pathogens during infancy, their risk of cardiovascular inflammation in adulthood is reduced, according to a 2010 Northwestern University study.
• A friendly bacteria found in soil helps produce serotonin, which enhances feelings of well-being, much the same way that antidepressant drugs and exercise do, according to a 2007 Bristol University study. 

While common sense sanitation practices like washing hands and using hand sanitizer when soap and water aren't available shouldn't stop, you'll be doing your children a favor if you encourage them to go outside and get dirty. 

Here are some fun—and messy—ideas from the National Wildlife Federation that will let your kids have some good, clean, dirty fun outdoors: 

Be an Artist
• Give your child a stick and a muddy surface to draw on. Mistakes are no problem. Just smooth them over and start again.
• Mud balls can become out-of-season snowmen or abstract sculptures. If your child's creation isn't sticking together, just add more water. 

Be a Builder
• Your children can make buildings of all shapes and sizes if they use sticks to create a frame and pack mud on to it. Houses or forts perhaps, a castle with a moat, or a stable to put toy horses in.
• If they also like the idea of large-scale public works, have them make a river by digging a trench in the mud or dirt. Then, add water as needed. Most importantly, build a dam to protect the town. 

Be a Biologist
• When it rains, take a walk through your neighborhood to see which animals go under cover and which come out in wet weather. You may also see birds swooping down to take a bath in nearby puddles.
• This is also a fine time to study worms that surface to breathe when their burrows fill with water. Then, enlist the kids in a Worm Rescue Squad and move any worms they find on the sidewalk back to the dirt so they don't dry out. 

Be a Chef
• If you're going to play in the mud, why not make some mud pies? If you have some old cake or pie tins, great. Otherwise, shallow plastic containers work just fine. Once the pies are "baked," it's time to make them beautiful. Encourage your children to scour the yard for pebbles, petals, and leaves that will make perfect decorations on top.
• Collect dirt, grass, leaves, twigs and acorns in a large container, and you have a bountiful nature salad. Add some water, and it's mud stew. 

Source: www.beoutthere.org.

Tips to Transform Trash to Treasure

April 20, 2012 5:06 pm

Have you ever beaten yourself up over a broken glass or a spill on your dining room chair? Life is full of "oops moments," which is why Glad® ForceFlex® Black Bag has teamed up with the Picker Sisters—best friends and interior designers Tracy Hutson and Tanya McQueen—to celebrate and cleanup life's wild moments, and then find ways to reuse discarded items. 

"We live by the saying, 'one person's trash is another's treasure.' In fact, on our television show, we travel across the country to find reclaimed trash to turn into treasure for our store," says Hutson. "However, you don't have to travel far to find items worth transforming into beautiful pieces." 

The Picker Sisters have provided a few easy tips to help you turn everyday trash into treasure:
Frame it - Are you holding onto old magazines, books or maps because they're too interesting or appealing to toss? Or, perhaps, they're items of sentiment. Instead of keeping them stuffed away in a desk drawer, showcase the items on your wall or mantel by framing them, which is also a great preservation tactic.
Don't trash the glass - Leftover wine bottles after a dinner party? Remove the labels and wash the bottles and they can quickly be transformed into a water carafe. Or cluster several bottles together with fresh cut flowers and candles and you have an eye-catching centerpiece. Keep the corks too and throw into a spare vase for a table or countertop display.
Reuse old towels - Did you buy new bath towels and don't know what to do with the old ones? Cut them into squares for dish rags or the size of a hand towel to store in the garage to dry your car after a wash. If you're super handy, you can stitch the ends with a needle and thread. Otherwise, leave them undone and they'll do the job.
Create place cards - Create color coded place cards from old greeting cards for dinner parties by cutting 4 x 3-inch sections and folding horizontally. Write guests' names in a metallic pen or add your own stickers or flare to personalize them.
Refresh key pieces - Looking to freshen up your dining room chairs because they've endured their fair share of spills? Don't throw them out. It may be easier than you think to reupholster the cushions with a fresh, new print, or perhaps something spill-proof. With just a few key tools -- such as an electric staple gun, pliers and screw driver -- and you can have a fresh-looking dining set.
Upcycle old luggage - Do you have old, trunk luggage you don't know what to do with? Before purging it, consider using it to decorate your home by creating unique statement pieces.
Stacking three or four suitcases to make a retro nightstand is just one of many ways to upcycle these old gems. 

Source: www.kab.org and www.mylifetime.com.

Word of the Day

April 20, 2012 5:06 pm

Delinquent loan. One where the borrower is behind, or late, in payments.

Question of the Day

April 20, 2012 5:06 pm

Q: How does an unsecured loan work?
A:
The interest rates on these loans are often higher than on secured loans and you generally will not be able to get a tax deduction for the interest paid. However, the costs to obtain an unsecured loan are usually lower. And the relative ease of getting this type of loan makes it popular for small projects costing $10,000 or less. The lender evaluates applications based on credit history and income.

3 Ways to Boost Curb Appeal for Under $100

April 20, 2012 5:06 pm

Want to add curb appeal, but don't have much money to spend? Here are some simple things you can do for under $100. 

• Clean up the yard. Put away unused items, like lawn furniture. Clear leaves and branches out from under shrubs, other plants, and the house foundation. Make sure the lawn is free from debris and that grass clippings are not left on the driveway or sidewalk. Borrow or rent a power washer to clean off the driveway, steps, sidewalk and porch.
• Trim, prune and divide. Overgrown plants can block light from getting inside the house, and they make the house and yard look unkempt. Trim shrubs, making sure to remove dead branches. Get rid of dead or diseased plants in the landscape. If you have perennial plants that have gotten too big, divide them and plant them in other places around the landscape.
• Add new mulch. Mulch not only helps your plants, but it gives garden beds a neat and tidy finish. Wood mulch comes in different colors, but to showcase your plants the most, consider a dark brown mulch -- it resembles fresh, healthy soil, so your eyes are drawn toward the plant and not the mulch itself. 

Source: www.TruGreen.com.