Gunning Daily News

Protect Your Plants from Heat

August 19, 2011 3:35 pm

Many regions in the country are still suffering from one of the hottest summers in recent history, and that means your lawns and gardens are suffering, too.

Experts from Lebanon Seaboard Corporation—a manufacturer of lawn, garden, and professional turf products under the Preen label, say it is obvious when plants have had too much cold—they freeze; they brown; they turn to mush.

Too much heat, however, can be nearly as destructive, but the damage is less obvious. Or the trouble gets blamed on drought, instead.

Wilting, for instance, isn’t always a sign that a plant isn’t getting enough water. It could be flat-out hot temperatures, according to the folks at Preen.

All kinds of heat trouble begins when daytime temperatures go above 86 degrees. Among the threats:

â—Flower buds may wither.
â—Chlorophyll production begins to shut down, robbing leaves of their healthy green color.
â—Pollen becomes non-viable, preventing popular plants such as tomatoes from setting new fruit until the weather cools.
â—Subtle chemical changes occur in plant leaves, making them more vulnerable to bug attack.
â—Soil temperatures may rise to the point where root activity slows and plant growth is stunted.
â—Most noticeable, moisture loss from plant leaves increases, making plants more susceptible to dry soil.

Some plants take the heat much better than others, but anyone can learn which plants are appropriate for their region by consulting the American Horticultural Society’s Heat Zone Map at ahs.org/pdfs/05_heat_map.pdf.

The 12 zones of the map indicate the average number of days each year that a given region experiences "heat days"—temperatures over 86 degrees—the point at which plants begin suffering physiological damage from heat. The zones range from Zone 1 (less than one heat day) to Zone 12 (more than 210 heat days).

Thousands of garden plants have now been coded for heat tolerance, with more to come in the near future. You will see the heat zone designations joining hardiness zone designations in garden centers, references books, and catalogs.

On each plant, there will be four numbers. For example, a tulip may be 3-8, 8-1.

If you live in USDA Zone 7 and AHS Zone 7, you will know that you can leave tulips outdoors in your garden year-round. An ageratum may be 10-11, 12-1. It can withstand summer heat throughout the United States, but will over winter only in our warmest zones.

Tips for Fall Decorating

August 19, 2011 3:35 pm

With August winding down, it’s nearly time to focus on Fall. Get rid of any end-of-summer blues by planning a fun Fall project, like redecorating your living space. While you may want to wait for September to de-summer your space, here are a handful of fun fall decorating tips:

1. Take down summer. The first step is to go through your house and remove your summery decorations—beachy blue hues, those light white drapes or bright colored plates and pillows.

2. Incorporate orange. Orange is fun and versatile, with hues ranging from vibrant to deep. Grab an orange pillow or throw for your couch, place a few pretty orange bowls along your dining-room table and fill with fruit, or run an orange rug down your entry hall.

3. Fireplace fun. While the weather is still warm and a fire is the last thing on your mind, that doesn’t mean you need to neglect your fireplace. Place a few fun candles of varying heights inside your fireplace for a cozy effect, and decorate your mantel with fall colors and foliage.

10 Ways to Make a Small Room Look Larger

August 19, 2011 3:35 pm

Most people have one: that room in the house that they wish was just a little larger. What many don't realize is that with a little work and some TLC, they could have exactly what they're looking for.

Here, Lowe's offers 10 designer tricks to help you make any room look larger:

1. For the illusion of a larger room, use a color scheme that is light rather than bright or dark. Pastels, neutrals and white are all color possibilities.

2. Use a monochromatic color scheme on the furniture, rugs and walls. Select different shades and textures of your single color.

3. Lighting is a key element in opening up a space. Recessed spot lighting is visually appealing and is perfect for a small space. A torchiere light is great for bouncing light off of the ceiling and back down on the room. Skylights and solar tubes are natural alternatives for adding light to a room.

4. Limit the number of accessories to avoid the cluttered feeling.

5. The floor and the ceiling are the fifth and sixth walls of every room. A light-colored flooring such as light oak or a light-colored carpet will make the room appear brighter and more open. The same applies to the ceiling—use a light color or white to "open up" the space above.

6. Increase the appearance of the size of the room by adding wall mirrors. They not only reflect images, they reflect light and color. Be a little daring! Use mirror tiles to mirror an entire wall. Your room will appear to double in size.

7. Don't place too many pieces of furniture in a small space. A love seat may work better than a full-size sofa depending on the size and shape of the room. Add two medium-sized chairs or two small wood chairs. Place the chairs closer to the wall and then pull them into the area when additional seating is needed.

8. Add paintings or prints to the walls. One large painting works better than a group of small paintings.

9. The visual balance of a room is also important. A large, brightly colored element can overwhelm a room and decrease the appearance of space.

10. A glass table, whether it is a dining, coffee or end table, will keep the appearance of an open and free space.

For more how-to project ideas, visit Lowe's How-To Library at http://www.lowes.com/cd_How+To+Library_615580068_.

Word of the Day

August 19, 2011 3:35 pm

Encroachment. A building or other improvement that extends beyond its boundary and intrudes upon the property of another.

Question of the Day

August 19, 2011 3:35 pm

Q: What about state and local governments?

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.

Winter Travel on a Budget? It’s Not too Early to Start Planning—and Saving.

August 18, 2011 5:35 pm

Winter Travel on a Budget? It’s Not too Early to Start Planning—and Saving. 

The sun is out, and beaches are still open, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to begin planning your winter vacation. Apple Vacations consumer research indicates that due to pent up demand from years of cutting back, Americans are booking their winter vacations earlier than last year. Waiting for a last-minute deal could mean winter travelers may miss out on their first hotel choice, destination or date. Apple Vacations is offering these tips to help consumers save money on winter travel: 

• Book an air and hotel package. Typically, companies that can package air and hotel together have more negotiating power, ensuring the lowest price possible.
• Investigate travel protection.
• When researching, be sure to compare apples to apples. For example, is the vacation from Company A the same as Company B? Does it include hotel transfers? Taxes? Meals?
• Whenever possible, book a nonstop flight. While the financial savings may be negligible, the costs to the environment are much less. Nearly half of the carbon emissions released by airplanes happen during takeoff and landing, so fewer stops mean a “greener” flight. It also means a quicker start to that winter vacation.
• Go all-inclusive. Today’s all-inclusives offer gourmet restaurants, premium brand drinks, fitness classes from certified professionals, all-day activities and nightly entertainment—a far cry from the boring buffet lines of all-inclusives of the past. Secrets Resorts in Riviera Maya, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, for example, have a la carte French, Italian, seafood and tepanyaki restaurants included in its package price.
• Look for packages that include extra values. For winter travel, hotels are offering free golf, free spa treatments, kids stay free and more. Travelers can save money on their vacation activities before they even arrive.

Word of the Day

August 18, 2011 5:35 pm

Eminent domain. The right or power of government to acquire private property for public use without the consent of the owner, provided fair compensation is provided.

Question of the Day

August 18, 2011 5:35 pm

Q: How can I finance work needed on a fixer-upper?

A: According to the Millennial Housing Commission created by Congress, few lenders are willing to administer home improvement loans. Most prefer to make home equity loans or unsecured consumer loans because they are easier to manage. Home improvement loans usually require inspections and irregular draws on the loan amount as work is completed, which requires regional or national lenders to find local partners to provide oversight. 

Financing repairs and improvements with home equity is okay for most homeowners, but it is difficult for many first-time buyers. They have lower-incomes, smaller savings, and have made lower down payments on their homes than first-time buyers a decade ago. So they have little equity to borrow against. Unfortunately, it is often lower cost older homes purchased by first-time buyers that need the most work. 

Unless you have a cash reserve, you will have to shop around for the best borrowing terms. In addition to the options listed above, you can ask relatives for a loan. Borrow against your whole life insurance policy. 

Refinance your existing mortgage. Get a second mortgage. Contact the government about home improvement programs. And – only as a last resort – borrow from a finance agency, which generally tend to charge high rates.

Improving the Value of Your Home

August 18, 2011 5:05 pm

Every home is, first and foremost, a place to live and enjoy—a respite from the outside world and a place to build cherished family memories. But a home is also an investment —perhaps the most important investment you will ever make, and there are many small steps you can take over the years to increase its value, comfort, and marketability should the time come to sell it and move.

California REALTOR® Ellen Parker suggests seven cost-effective ways to treat your home like the investment it is meant to be:

• Curb appeal – First impressions are important, and regular maintenance shows. A well-kept lawn, tidy landscaping, a neatly painted exterior and a nice front door show pride of ownership and pride in the neighborhood.
• Fresh paint – One of the most cost-effective boosts to any home is a coat of fresh interior paint. Choose colors that appeal to you, but if selling your home is on your agenda, stick to neutral shades.
• Update kitchen – Dated counters, cabinets and floors can be a real turn-off to buyers. Investing in granite, tile and/or remodeled cabinetry will not only increase your own enjoyment, but can make a major difference in resale value.
Update windows – Double paned windows that shut out noise and help regulate indoor temperature are an attractive and worthwhile investment that will add value to your home.
• Update baths – Attractive bathrooms are always noticed. Tubs and showers are easily replaced or resurfaced, and newer, low-flush toilets can cost as little as $100.
Update floors and ceilings – Popcorn ceilings are a thing of the past. Scrape them away before painting. Carpeting, if used, should never look dingy or worn. Is there a real wood floor under the carpet? Think about ripping out that old carpeting and refurbishing the wood for a clean and updated look.
• Energy savings – Although not always noticeable, energy efficient additions like solar panels, insulated windows and water filtration systems will trim your own utility bills and add value when you sell.

Many Still Lack Flood Coverage as Hurricane Season Nears Its Peak

August 18, 2011 5:05 pm

 Less than a fifth of U.S. homeowners have a flood insurance policy that protects their property and personal belongings, even though more than four out of every five natural disasters nationwide involve flooding, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). 

Coverage for flood damage resulting from surface water, including storm surge caused by hurricanes, is excluded under standard homeowner and renter insurance policies; however flood coverage is available both from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few private insurance companies. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently upgraded its Atlantic hurricane season forecast. NOAA said it envisioned 14-19 named storms between August 4, 2011, and November 30, 2011, up from the 12-18 named storms the federal agency projected in May 2011. NOAA also said the number of 2011 Atlantic hurricanes would likely be closer to 7-10 in number, rather than the 6-10 hurricanes the agency predicted would develop in May 2011. 

During the first six months of 2011 alone, the federal government declared 28 major flood disasters. This put the U.S. well ahead of the pace set in 2010, when 50 federally declared major flood disasters occurred during the entire year. 

"People tend to underestimate the risk of flooding," says Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for III. "But, in fact, 90 percent of all natural disasters in this country involve flooding. It is important to note that there is a 30-day waiting period for flood insurance to go into effect, so don't delay purchasing this important financial protection." 

While the risk of flood damage is real, a 2011 poll by III found that only 14 percent of American homeowners had a flood insurance policy. The percentage of homeowners with flood insurance was highest in the South, at 19 percent. Thirteen percent of Midwestern homeowners had a flood insurance policy in 2011, along with 12 percent of homeowners in the West and 5 percent in the Northeast. 

"A low risk from flooding does not mean there is no risk," points out Salvatore. "Even those who do not live in an area at high risk for flooding should talk to their agent or company representative about getting flood insurance. In fact," Salvatore adds, "Since the inception of the NFIP, 25 to 30 percent of the NFIP's paid losses were for damage in areas not officially designated as special flood hazard area at the time of the loss." 

Consumers can find out their risk of flood and the cost of a policy by going to the NFIP's website, www.FloodSmart.gov. 

The NFIP provides coverage for up to $250,000 for the structure of your home and $100,000 for your personal possessions. The NFIP policy provides replacement cost coverage for the structure of your home, but only actual cash value coverage for your possessions. Replacement cost coverage pays to rebuild your home as it was before the damage. Actual cash value is replacement cost coverage minus depreciation so that the older your possessions are, the less you will get if they are damaged. The NFIP policy may also have limits on coverage for furniture and other belongings stored in a basement. Flood insurance is also readily available for renters. 

If you need additional insurance protection over and above the amount of coverage in a basic flood insurance policy, excess flood insurance is available from some private insurers; it also provides coverage if you live in a community that does not participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. An excess flood insurance policy covers damage above the limits of the federal program on the same basis as the federal program—replacement cost for the structure and actual cash value for the contents. Some insurers have also introduced special insurance policies for high-value properties. These policies may provide enhancements to the traditional flood insurance policy. 

There is a 30-day waiting period after applying for flood coverage and paying the premium before the policy goes into effect. The only exceptions to this rule are:
• If a homeowner purchases flood insurance in connection with making, increasing, extending or renewing a loan. In those cases, there is no waiting period.
• If a lender determines that a loan on a property that does not have flood insurance should be protected by flood insurance, there is no waiting period as long as the premium is presented at the completion of a loan application.
• If a homeowner purchases flood insurance during the 13-month waiting period following the effective date of a revised community flood map issued by FEMA, the agency with oversight over NFIP. There is a one-day waiting period for policyholders meeting that criterion.

In addition to hurricane related flooding, flood insurance covers the direct physical losses resulting from heavy or prolonged rain, melting snow, blocked storm drainage systems and levee dam failure.
Despite the very real risk of flooding, the average flood insurance policy in 2010 was only $594 per year for $220,577 worth of coverage, according to III's Salvatore. And, the average amount of a flood insurance claim was $26,067 in 2010. 

"Flood insurance is also easy to buy. It can be purchased from the same agent or company representative who sold you your home or renters insurance policy," says Salvatore. "So to file a flood insurance claim, you can simply get in touch with your insurance company." 

To prepare for a disaster, the I.I.I. suggests the following steps:
1. Contact your insurance agent to make sure that you have both the right amount and type of insurance protection, including flood insurance.
2. Make sure you have an up-to-date home inventory. This will help you purchase the right amount of insurance and will make the claims process faster and easier. III has free Web-based home inventory software at KnowYourStuff.org.
3. Take reasonable steps to make your home disaster-resistant. III has a video outlining five key steps for Making Your Home More Hurricane Resistant. For detailed information on how to disaster-proof your home or business, go to www.disastersafety.org.
4. Have a disaster plan that includes your pets. You should know where you will go if you have to evacuate and know what you need to take with you.

For more information, visit www.III.org.