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Archive for March, 2009

‘Lock in losses’? Go for it

March 24th, 2009 No comments

Question: . I was laid off recently and want to roll over the substantial balance in my 401(k) into an IRA. But I don’t know whether to do the rollover now and risk locking in losses or wait until the market recovers and then roll it over. What do you think? Steve, Wichita Falls, Texas

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‘Lock in losses’? Go for it

March 24th, 2009 No comments

Question: . I was laid off recently and want to roll over the substantial balance in my 401(k) into an IRA. But I don’t know whether to do the rollover now and risk locking in losses or wait until the market recovers and then roll it over. What do you think? Steve, Wichita Falls, Texas

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Spring Flowers Brighten Up the Home

March 24th, 2009 No comments

Amazingly, hints of spring have been around these past too weeks (although as the temp just recently cooled down, I might have spoken too soon). Aside from longer days and a slight compulsion to wear shorts, it’s really the plethora of spring flowers on the street everywhere I turn that sing spring. The myriad of colours; tulips, daffodils, lilacs, cyclamens and many more I don’t know the sames of, simply brighten up one’s day.

daffodils Spring Flowers Brighten Up the Home

Photo courtesy of Cool, Green, and Shady

Here, at HRG we’ve been working with a local florist Cool, Green, and Shady (2012 Queen St. East located in the Beaches area) for home shows across Ontario. Seeing how the lovely brilliant flowers really lit up the recent National home show (amongst many staged interiors), encouraged me to get some for my own home. Not to mention, there’s a reason why home stagers love adding plants in the home; they really do add some warmth and freshness to any room.

flower-gift-homeshow-215x300 Spring Flowers Brighten Up the Home

A super cute gift idea for your home or a loved one is a “bulb” plant, which will slowly blossom in the home and after which, can be planted outside.

Here are some helpful hints from their website:

HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR BULB POT
(”Bulb pots” are pots and baskets that include a mixture of spring bulbs.)
clear Spring Flowers Brighten Up the Home
Bulb pots require a moderately bright location.
Keep soil moist, but avoid over watering.
Room temperature is preferred; avoid excess heat or cold.
Once your bulb pot has finished blooming, you may prune the greens and plant the bulbs in your garden where they will bloom again each spring.

Although there are some arguments about how green the cultivated plant industry is, I can’t help but feel that flowers are a simple luxury, and you can take the extra step in asking where your local florist sources the flowers and plants they sell.

Consider buying plants that you can nurture that will clean the air in your home, rather than cut flowers that will not last as long. Mini rosebushes – need I say more?

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Car manufacturers and their apps

March 22nd, 2009 No comments

Nowadays every bigger company has noticed that having an own app in the App Store is a really easy and good way to promote their product. Disney for example offered the app “RhinoBall” to promote the movie “Bolt”. The first ones who noticed the enormous potential of the App Store, were the car manufacturers. Most of them made a quite good job.

Audi
Audi was the first car manufacturer, that offered a racing app for the iPhone. “Audi A4 Driving” was made to promote the new Audi A4. The game is very spartan. You have to drive an Audi A4 through a racetrack and you have to beat a shadow car.

Volkswagen
Volkswagen Polo challenge 3D” was also only made to promote a new car, the new VW Polo. The only mode you can play is a time attack mode. You drive a VW polo. Well, you don’t really drive… The only thing you can do is to steer and to put on the brakes. Nevertheless this app is really entertaining.


BMW

The app “BMW Z4 – An Expression of Joy. – Lite” Is not a traditional racing game. It is the first app, which combines driving and drawing. While you are driving a BMW Z4, which is free customizable, you draw a picture using your wheels as brushes. You have to be connected to a Wi-Fi network to download it, because it is bigger than 10 MB.


Seat
Seat Ibiza Cupra Race” by Seat is the only traditional racing game. There are 3 different modes:
- Racing Mode: This is a traditional racing mode.You compete against 5 other drivers
- Time Attack: In this mode your only enemy is the clock.
- Test Drive: The mode’s name tells everything you have to know about the mode.
You have to be connected to a Wi-Fi network to download it, because it is bigger than 10 MB.

Mercedes Benz
This car manufacturer is the only one, which published an app, that doesn’t offer the possibility to drive a car. It is called “Mercedes-Benz Top Trumps” and it shows you 64 original cars from the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart (Germany).
Appart from this app, Mercedes Benz also offers an app called “Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG App“. This app is nothing special, it only allows you to watch small movies or pictures, which show the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.

All of this Apps are available in the App Store for free.

Patrickk




Should we replace our lawn with artificial turf?

March 20th, 2009 No comments

Richard Heller is founder and CEO of Greener by Design, a sustainable landscape design, construction, and maintenance company based in New York City. He also consults, leads seminars, and writes for local and landscape-industry publications. Question: We live in San Francisco, where it rains quite a bit in the winter. We have replanted our lawn three times in five years. We’ve thought about replacing the lawn with decomposed granite or artificial turf. However, our yard has lots of old-growth trees that I don’t want to cut out, and we have a three-year-old boy who loves the yard. Do you have any recommendations for our situation? The granite, from what I have seen, gets to be a bit like concrete after the rains. Any thoughts on the artificial turf? We try hard not to use plastic in our lives, so I am torn.
– Jeni Vullings, San Francisco, CA Answer: Lawns are man-made, cultivated creations and, as such, can be high maintenance—particularly under adverse conditions. Nevertheless, they do sequester carbon and encourage biodiversity (providing food and habitat for birds and insects); granite and artificial turf clearly do not. That said, it’s tough to make a recommendation for your situation without actually seeing the site. You may want to bring in a local landscape professional to evaluate the site for you. I can offer a few general recommendations for a yard with low light and poor drainage. From your description, it sounds like the site is not only shaded, but most likely has runoff issues as well. Lawns like well-drained soil, so if you’re going to keep the lawn, start by finding out what’s happening to the water when it rains. You may need to regrade the property slightly so that the water is running from the lawn (which does not like standing water) to the trees (which need up to 35 gallons of water a week to be healthy). Dealing with the runoff issue will be the best solution for the health of your trees—no matter what ground surface you choose—so explore this first! If you can’t redirect the runoff, consider building a rain garden. (Read this PDF download from Applied Ecological Services to learn more.) There are a number of shade-tolerant, cool-season grasses available. The best for your situation is probably fine fescue grass (see this chart at Lowe’s website for recommendations). Fine fescue grasses are known to be the most shade-tolerant, low-maintenance cool-season grasses for your region. Grass needs time to establish, and it needs to be fed. Keeping your grass at a height of two to three inches when it is hot will inhibit weeds from developing and will help your lawn survive through drier, hotter times. To learn more about organic lawn care, read Paul Tukey’s book The Organic Lawn Care Manual. Worst-case scenario: your yard just may not have enough sunlight to support grass. In this case, you can either go with a low-light ground cover, or perhaps install paving stones surrounded by moss or another ground cover. If you have to plant less altogether, a limited area of artificial turf might work for you. However, think carefully about what it is your son likes about the yard before you do that. As a product of an urban environment, I craved interaction with natural things, even plain old dirt, and spent most of my time as a youth in NYC’s Central Park (even though the park was very degraded then). We urban dwellers like everything uniform and clean, but we need to remember that this is not nature’s way. GreenHomeGuide’s Ask A Pro archive has answers to dozens of other green home questions from our network of the best and brightest green architects, designers, contractors and consultants across the U.S.

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Should we replace our lawn with artificial turf?

March 20th, 2009 No comments

Richard Heller is founder and CEO of Greener by Design, a sustainable landscape design, construction, and maintenance company based in New York City. He also consults, leads seminars, and writes for local and landscape-industry publications. Question: We live in San Francisco, where it rains quite a bit in the winter. We have replanted our lawn three times in five years. We’ve thought about replacing the lawn with decomposed granite or artificial turf. However, our yard has lots of old-growth trees that I don’t want to cut out, and we have a three-year-old boy who loves the yard. Do you have any recommendations for our situation? The granite, from what I have seen, gets to be a bit like concrete after the rains. Any thoughts on the artificial turf? We try hard not to use plastic in our lives, so I am torn.
– Jeni Vullings, San Francisco, CA Answer: Lawns are man-made, cultivated creations and, as such, can be high maintenance—particularly under adverse conditions. Nevertheless, they do sequester carbon and encourage biodiversity (providing food and habitat for birds and insects); granite and artificial turf clearly do not. That said, it’s tough to make a recommendation for your situation without actually seeing the site. You may want to bring in a local landscape professional to evaluate the site for you. I can offer a few general recommendations for a yard with low light and poor drainage. From your description, it sounds like the site is not only shaded, but most likely has runoff issues as well. Lawns like well-drained soil, so if you’re going to keep the lawn, start by finding out what’s happening to the water when it rains. You may need to regrade the property slightly so that the water is running from the lawn (which does not like standing water) to the trees (which need up to 35 gallons of water a week to be healthy). Dealing with the runoff issue will be the best solution for the health of your trees—no matter what ground surface you choose—so explore this first! If you can’t redirect the runoff, consider building a rain garden. (Read this PDF download from Applied Ecological Services to learn more.) There are a number of shade-tolerant, cool-season grasses available. The best for your situation is probably fine fescue grass (see this chart at Lowe’s website for recommendations). Fine fescue grasses are known to be the most shade-tolerant, low-maintenance cool-season grasses for your region. Grass needs time to establish, and it needs to be fed. Keeping your grass at a height of two to three inches when it is hot will inhibit weeds from developing and will help your lawn survive through drier, hotter times. To learn more about organic lawn care, read Paul Tukey’s book The Organic Lawn Care Manual. Worst-case scenario: your yard just may not have enough sunlight to support grass. In this case, you can either go with a low-light ground cover, or perhaps install paving stones surrounded by moss or another ground cover. If you have to plant less altogether, a limited area of artificial turf might work for you. However, think carefully about what it is your son likes about the yard before you do that. As a product of an urban environment, I craved interaction with natural things, even plain old dirt, and spent most of my time as a youth in NYC’s Central Park (even though the park was very degraded then). We urban dwellers like everything uniform and clean, but we need to remember that this is not nature’s way. GreenHomeGuide’s Ask A Pro archive has answers to dozens of other green home questions from our network of the best and brightest green architects, designers, contractors and consultants across the U.S.

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Is there an eco-friendly way to get rid of the poison ivy and sumac on our property?

March 20th, 2009 No comments

Richard Heller is founder and CEO of Greener by Design, a sustainable landscape design, construction, and maintenance company based in New York City. He also consults, leads seminars, and writes for local and landscape-industry publications. Question: We have a huge problem with poison ivy and sumac growing around our property trees. I am highly sensitive to these plants and would like to know if there is an organic way to completely get rid of them. I don’t like the use of pesticides anywhere on our property. (A neighbor once poured pesticide on the poison plants when we weren’t home, but they grew back the following year!) I have thought of trying to put a weed-barrier fabric over the plants with maybe some pine straw on top. Got any professional advice?
– Jacqueline Downing, Maysville, NC Answer: Poison ivy, oak, and sumac can be very hard to get rid of. You have three choices: removal by hand, use of an herbicide, or suffocation. Interestingly, these are native plants, and therefore considered desirable by many environmentalists. By native, I mean they and the local ecosystem are well adapted to each other and support each other. Removing these plants altogether from the region would actually disturb the ecosystem and limit biodiversity! That said, I too am highly allergic to these plants and will not tolerate them around my property. Let them have the woods, but please, not in my back yard! Although I’m highly allergic, I physically remove poison ivy from my property. I do this in winter or summer, the two seasons when the plants are least virulent. Be sure to remove the whole plant, including the roots. Of course, covering your skin will help a lot. Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, elbow-length gloves, and possibly a bandanna over your nose and mouth. When you’re done, immediately remove all these items, wash them, and wash your arms and face thoroughly with Tecnu (a great product for preventing an allergic reaction). These plants are at their strongest in spring and fall, so avoid them completely in these seasons. (You can hire one of the non-allergic elite to remove poison ivy and sumac for you, but studies show that repeated exposure will lead to the development of the allergy over time, so you are not doing these folks a favor.) Most herbicides are designed and proven to break down within 24 hours of exposure to light and air, the downside being that they kill not only plants, but also live soil bacteria. If an herbicide like Roundup or Brush-B-Gon is applied selectively, the environmental damage is minimal. Be careful to avoid getting herbicide on the soil or surrounding plants. This is a tradeoff, of course: some folks are plain anti-chemical, except when it comes to termites, roaches, and rodents. Other folks will stretch it to poisonous plants. Personally, I believe that careful, selective use of herbicides is a tolerable risk. In my mind, herbicides—which kill the plant through the root zone—are more reliable than mechanical removal. If you don’t get all the roots, the plant comes back and you may have risked another rash for nothing. If the plant comes back, hit it again until it does not. As long as you are working composted material (rich in live microbial cultures) into your soil on a regular basis, you will counteract any damage that a very limited quantity of herbicide might do to your topsoil. Do keep in mind that applying these products to large areas will result in “dead” soil that will take at least a year to rejuvenate. Last of all, there’s the pond-liner solution. Get some heavy EPDM pond liner and put it on top of the plants for three to four weeks in active seasons, or for as long as seven weeks in the winter. This will suffocate the poisonous plants (and any other plants under the pond liner). It also suffocates the soil—with the same repercussions to topsoil as herbicides—since the pond liner prevents moisture and gas exchange vital to microorganisms. Any thickness of pond liner will do the trick; however, the heavier the pond liner, the more durable it will be and the more you will be able to reuse it. One final word of warning: NEVER BURN THESE PLANTS. Inhaling the fumes will cause dangerous allergic reactions in unimaginable places! GreenHomeGuide’s Ask A Pro archive has answers to dozens of other green home questions from our network of the best and brightest green architects, designers, contractors and consultants across the U.S.

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Is there an eco-friendly way to get rid of the poison ivy and sumac on our property?

March 20th, 2009 No comments

Richard Heller is founder and CEO of Greener by Design, a sustainable landscape design, construction, and maintenance company based in New York City. He also consults, leads seminars, and writes for local and landscape-industry publications. Question: We have a huge problem with poison ivy and sumac growing around our property trees. I am highly sensitive to these plants and would like to know if there is an organic way to completely get rid of them. I don’t like the use of pesticides anywhere on our property. (A neighbor once poured pesticide on the poison plants when we weren’t home, but they grew back the following year!) I have thought of trying to put a weed-barrier fabric over the plants with maybe some pine straw on top. Got any professional advice?
– Jacqueline Downing, Maysville, NC Answer: Poison ivy, oak, and sumac can be very hard to get rid of. You have three choices: removal by hand, use of an herbicide, or suffocation. Interestingly, these are native plants, and therefore considered desirable by many environmentalists. By native, I mean they and the local ecosystem are well adapted to each other and support each other. Removing these plants altogether from the region would actually disturb the ecosystem and limit biodiversity! That said, I too am highly allergic to these plants and will not tolerate them around my property. Let them have the woods, but please, not in my back yard! Although I’m highly allergic, I physically remove poison ivy from my property. I do this in winter or summer, the two seasons when the plants are least virulent. Be sure to remove the whole plant, including the roots. Of course, covering your skin will help a lot. Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, elbow-length gloves, and possibly a bandanna over your nose and mouth. When you’re done, immediately remove all these items, wash them, and wash your arms and face thoroughly with Tecnu (a great product for preventing an allergic reaction). These plants are at their strongest in spring and fall, so avoid them completely in these seasons. (You can hire one of the non-allergic elite to remove poison ivy and sumac for you, but studies show that repeated exposure will lead to the development of the allergy over time, so you are not doing these folks a favor.) Most herbicides are designed and proven to break down within 24 hours of exposure to light and air, the downside being that they kill not only plants, but also live soil bacteria. If an herbicide like Roundup or Brush-B-Gon is applied selectively, the environmental damage is minimal. Be careful to avoid getting herbicide on the soil or surrounding plants. This is a tradeoff, of course: some folks are plain anti-chemical, except when it comes to termites, roaches, and rodents. Other folks will stretch it to poisonous plants. Personally, I believe that careful, selective use of herbicides is a tolerable risk. In my mind, herbicides—which kill the plant through the root zone—are more reliable than mechanical removal. If you don’t get all the roots, the plant comes back and you may have risked another rash for nothing. If the plant comes back, hit it again until it does not. As long as you are working composted material (rich in live microbial cultures) into your soil on a regular basis, you will counteract any damage that a very limited quantity of herbicide might do to your topsoil. Do keep in mind that applying these products to large areas will result in “dead” soil that will take at least a year to rejuvenate. Last of all, there’s the pond-liner solution. Get some heavy EPDM pond liner and put it on top of the plants for three to four weeks in active seasons, or for as long as seven weeks in the winter. This will suffocate the poisonous plants (and any other plants under the pond liner). It also suffocates the soil—with the same repercussions to topsoil as herbicides—since the pond liner prevents moisture and gas exchange vital to microorganisms. Any thickness of pond liner will do the trick; however, the heavier the pond liner, the more durable it will be and the more you will be able to reuse it. One final word of warning: NEVER BURN THESE PLANTS. Inhaling the fumes will cause dangerous allergic reactions in unimaginable places! GreenHomeGuide’s Ask A Pro archive has answers to dozens of other green home questions from our network of the best and brightest green architects, designers, contractors and consultants across the U.S.

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How can I create a permeable pathway for my water-wise garden?

March 20th, 2009 No comments

Richard Heller is founder and CEO of Greener by Design, a sustainable landscape design, construction, and maintenance company based in New York City. He also consults, leads seminars, and writes for local and landscape-industry publications. Question: I am replanting my front and back yards with California native plants and water-thrifty desert cacti and succulents to comply with our utility’s Water-Wise Residential Landscape Program. I also need pathways that are permeable. My Sunset gardening book recommends slate pavers for this; however, I am retired on a fixed income and need something more affordable. Do you have any other recommendations?
– Stan Brody, Upland, CA Answer: There are many ways to create permeable paths. You can use manufactured pavers, gravel, or a variety of plantable grid systems. The first requirement is that path materials be permeable to air and water. Joints cannot be mortared, and you will need to limit soil compaction beneath the path to allow water to drain. The other factor to consider is how the pathway will be used. How finished do you want the path to be? How flat? How accessible? Gravel paths, at approximately $3 per square foot*, are on the inexpensive side. A gravel path is fairly simple to install. Any type of gravel will work, as long as it is not too small. I would recommend gravel that is between 1/4 inch and 3 inches in size to ensure good water flow. It is important to prevent the gravel from mixing with the soil beneath it, or it will eventually become muddy. You will want to install landscape fabric—also known as weed barrier—below the gravel. Landscape fabric is available at any big box store or retail nursery. You will also want some form of gravel retention (edging, bricks, railroad ties, etc.) on the sides of the path. In the middle range of expense, you have concrete pavers and turf-protection grid systems. Concrete paving systems cost about $5 per square foot. They are more complex than a gravel path to install, but simpler than working with raw stone. The pavers interlock without mortar, and the concrete is mixed with aggregate to give the pavers a stone-like façade. Specific brands include Drivable Grass, Unilock permeable pavers, and Hanover permeable paving units. To learn more about these products, visit the PaverSearch website. Turf-protection grid systems like EcoGrid supply a firm path base while allowing plants to grow on top of or through the structure. These systems can range from $3 to $6 per square foot in material cost, depending on the system and the plants you choose. You could plant grass, sedums, delosperma, creeping thyme, even pachysandra and vinca. Stepping stones can be added to reduce stress on plants growing through the grid. Grid systems are on par with concrete pavers in terms of installation complexity. (Depending on the project, they may be a little simpler to install.) On the high end, costing $10 to $20 per square foot for materials, there are paths made with slate and other types of stone. You can use any hard, flat stone available, from granite to bluestone. It’s important that you don’t mortar the joints, as mortar will obviously prevent water flow. It’s also important not to let the path’s base become compacted—an overly compacted base won’t allow water to pass through. A 3/8-inch gravel base will have more air space and allow more water movement. Paths made of real stone with a permeable base can be fairly complex to install. Before you make a decision, be sure to research all aspects of installation, from cutting the stone, to choosing a firm (but still permeable) base, to maintaining the path over the long term. * Price estimates in this article do not include labor costs. GreenHomeGuide’s Ask A Pro archive has answers to dozens of other green home questions from our network of the best and brightest green architects, designers, contractors and consultants across the U.S.

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How can I create a permeable pathway for my water-wise garden?

March 20th, 2009 No comments

Richard Heller is founder and CEO of Greener by Design, a sustainable landscape design, construction, and maintenance company based in New York City. He also consults, leads seminars, and writes for local and landscape-industry publications. Question: I am replanting my front and back yards with California native plants and water-thrifty desert cacti and succulents to comply with our utility’s Water-Wise Residential Landscape Program. I also need pathways that are permeable. My Sunset gardening book recommends slate pavers for this; however, I am retired on a fixed income and need something more affordable. Do you have any other recommendations?
– Stan Brody, Upland, CA Answer: There are many ways to create permeable paths. You can use manufactured pavers, gravel, or a variety of plantable grid systems. The first requirement is that path materials be permeable to air and water. Joints cannot be mortared, and you will need to limit soil compaction beneath the path to allow water to drain. The other factor to consider is how the pathway will be used. How finished do you want the path to be? How flat? How accessible? Gravel paths, at approximately $3 per square foot*, are on the inexpensive side. A gravel path is fairly simple to install. Any type of gravel will work, as long as it is not too small. I would recommend gravel that is between 1/4 inch and 3 inches in size to ensure good water flow. It is important to prevent the gravel from mixing with the soil beneath it, or it will eventually become muddy. You will want to install landscape fabric—also known as weed barrier—below the gravel. Landscape fabric is available at any big box store or retail nursery. You will also want some form of gravel retention (edging, bricks, railroad ties, etc.) on the sides of the path. In the middle range of expense, you have concrete pavers and turf-protection grid systems. Concrete paving systems cost about $5 per square foot. They are more complex than a gravel path to install, but simpler than working with raw stone. The pavers interlock without mortar, and the concrete is mixed with aggregate to give the pavers a stone-like façade. Specific brands include Drivable Grass, Unilock permeable pavers, and Hanover permeable paving units. To learn more about these products, visit the PaverSearch website. Turf-protection grid systems like EcoGrid supply a firm path base while allowing plants to grow on top of or through the structure. These systems can range from $3 to $6 per square foot in material cost, depending on the system and the plants you choose. You could plant grass, sedums, delosperma, creeping thyme, even pachysandra and vinca. Stepping stones can be added to reduce stress on plants growing through the grid. Grid systems are on par with concrete pavers in terms of installation complexity. (Depending on the project, they may be a little simpler to install.) On the high end, costing $10 to $20 per square foot for materials, there are paths made with slate and other types of stone. You can use any hard, flat stone available, from granite to bluestone. It’s important that you don’t mortar the joints, as mortar will obviously prevent water flow. It’s also important not to let the path’s base become compacted—an overly compacted base won’t allow water to pass through. A 3/8-inch gravel base will have more air space and allow more water movement. Paths made of real stone with a permeable base can be fairly complex to install. Before you make a decision, be sure to research all aspects of installation, from cutting the stone, to choosing a firm (but still permeable) base, to maintaining the path over the long term. * Price estimates in this article do not include labor costs. GreenHomeGuide’s Ask A Pro archive has answers to dozens of other green home questions from our network of the best and brightest green architects, designers, contractors and consultants across the U.S.

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