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Archives for April 22, 2016

LETTER: Three ideas to enhance Long Branch quality of life

The recent dedication of the new boardwalk in Long Branch was a wonderful event. The city and all who worked so hard are to be congratulated. It is beautiful, quiet, safe and traffic-free.

Long Branch residents live in the only beach community with historical bluffs, the history of the “Seven Presidents” and two traffic-free Green Acres parks, yet no one hardly mentions any of these wonderful attributes.

For years before and after superstorm Sandy, the Save Ocean Avenue Committee has worked with city councils to improve the boardwalk, road safety and preserve the traffic-free environment of the two Green Acre linear parks.

The city is now determining important “quality of life” issues for all who use the boardwalk and roadways. We urge the city to abide by the repeated requests of its taxpaying residents and thousands of visitors to:

Restore the bike path from Brighton Avenue north and connect it to the bike path in the north Green Acres linear park and Seven President’s park.

Prohibit all traffic and parking in the Green Acres linear parks and anywhere along the boardwalk to not interfere with the bike path.

Restore the Seven Presidents Art History Boards and boardwalk enhancements such as shade areas, landscaping, more benches, bicycle racks, doggie bags, exercise stations, etc.

The city has the responsibility to make a wonderful new boardwalk, unique to Long Branch and Green Acres, with traffic-free parks and an extended connected bike path for all to use safely.

Dennis Sherman


Save Ocean Avenue Committee of Long Branch


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Top 10 home improvements to help sell your home

Planning to sell your home this year? The low inventory of resale homes in the Triangle may send a lot of potential buyers your way, but there are still many steps you can take in preparation that will enhance your chances of a more rapid sale at a good price.

1. Replace or Repaint Your Front Door

You may not think much about your front door, especially if you regularly use another entrance, but a new door makes a great impression on buyers and can yield a more than 80% return on your investment. Simpler, lower-cost projects tend to return greater value. The national average cost for a steel door replacement is $1,230. That’s one of the least expensive projects a homeowner can do, and it ranks highest on the payback scale, returning 101.8% nationally on average. If your front door doesn’t need replacing or you’d rather spend less money, you can simply paint it and replace the hardware for a similar impact. Replacing your garage door recoups approximately 75% of your investment, even more if the door is damaged in any way.

2. Add a Deck or Patio

No matter where you live in the United States, buyers are looking for outdoor living spaces. You can recoup approximately 85% of your investment on a new wood deck. In some areas, brick, slate or stone patios also offer a good return on investment. If you already have attractive outdoor spaces, consider enhancing those areas further with a water feature, an outdoor fireplace or new landscaping.

3. Add More Interior Space

Depending on your budget and your goals for your home, an addition of an extra bedroom and bathroom, a finished third floor or basement, or an expanded casual living space can rapidly increase the value of your home. For example, you can generally recoup about 70-75% of your investment in an attic bedroom and that extra space may broaden the appeal of your home.

Kitchen renovation

4. Remodel Your Kitchen

Buyers look most carefully at kitchens and bathrooms, so you should too. You can recoup 75% of a minor kitchen remodel and 60-68% of a major kitchen remodel. If you’re selling soon, be careful not to overspend on your kitchen. You may be able to do one or two things, such as replacing the appliances and painting the cabinets, or just replacing the counters with granite. Nanfer Lopez, manager of KJ Natural Stone in Raleigh, says many of her customers are homeowners and real estate brokers who are interested in adding value to a home without spending a lot of money. “Even level one granite (the least expensive) in the kitchen will help the home sell more quickly,” she says. “Most of our customers choose neutral granite with some dark accents – those are the most versatile colors for countertops.” Lopez recommends that homeowners who plan to stay in their homes for a while choose higher grade granite or consider quartz or quartzite for their countertops.

5. Renew Your View

Buyers are often interested in how your windows look and how energy efficient they are. Whether you’re replacing vinyl or wood-frame windows, you can get a 70-75% return on your investment of new double pane windows. When you’re ready to market your home, be sure to highlight the new windows as a selling point for buyers.

6. Upgrade Your Lighting

Today’s buyers like bright, light rooms, so examine your home carefully to see if you need to upgrade existing lighting fixtures or add new ones. You can hire a professional to add some recessed or pendant lights to your kitchen. In living areas and bedrooms, consider replacing outdated overhead lighting fixtures with new ones that match contemporary tastes.

7. Replace Your Window Treatments

Make sure you’re letting as much natural light as possible into your home. Accent the positive by making sure window treatments don’t hide great views from oversized windows or French doors. Take a look at HGTV to see what kind of affordable window treatments, such as bamboo blinds or Roman shades, might help add a fresh look to your home.

Bathroom remodel

8. Update Your Bathroom

While a full, upscale bathroom remodeling project can cost $50,000 or more and may only add less than half that amount to your home’s resale value, you can make cost-effective minor upgrades. Replace your fixtures and your mirror, repaint the space and you’ll have a space that looks almost new. Redo the caulk around your tub and shower and replace the grout on your tile flooring. Carolina GroutSeal in Raleigh specializes in cleaning or replacing grout and caulk with custom colors which can dramatically improve the appearance of flooring, tubs and showers. “We have a product that removes mold and mildew, restores the grout to its original color and seals it to prevent future problems,” says Tri Ligon, owner of Carolina GroutSeal. “We can match or we can change the color of your grout if decide you want a different look,” he says. Ligon and his crew work with a number of area real estate agents and brokers to update clients’ homes in preparation for putting them on the market. You can also consider changing out your sink and vanity and replacing or retiling a tub or shower. If your tub is older and not in good shape, you may be able to have it resurfaced rather than replace it for a less expensive home improvement.

9. Replace Your Siding

If your home’s exterior needs a major makeover, you can typically recoup 70% to up to 90% of your investment by replacing the siding. Data from the National Association of Realtors in 2015 showed that manufactured stone veneer, a new trend for exterior siding, is expected to recoup 92.2% of its cost nationally, on average. Replacing your siding with new fiber cement typically recoups about 85-90% of its cost.

10. Organize Your Closets

High on the list of priorities for today’s buyers is adequate storage. If your home lacks big closets or has too few storage spaces, you can increase their efficiency with a new built-in closet system or add your own removable closet organizers to highlight the space.

Continue reading this article on New Homes Ideas.

Statistics provided by the National Association of Realtors and Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Annual Report.

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100 Ways to Cut Your Day-to-Day Expenses

34. Conduct an energy audit of your home (for example, check air leaks through window frames, door frames, and attics).

35. Turn down heat (or turn up your air-conditioning, depending on the season and the climate where you live). In colder climates, learn to love fleece and buy a warm comforter for your bed.

36. Switch from a premium cable package to a basic one or watch TV online via websites such as Purchasing a digital antenna will give you access to local network channels.  

37. If you like your current cable package but it’s been getting more expensive, call your provider to see if you can take advantage of any discount packages available. If that fails, threatening to drop your package should get you results.

38. Head to your local library for DVD rentals; drop your  Netflix  subscription.

39. If you aren’t using items (such as lamps, VCRs, a clock radio in guest bedroom, and so on), turn them off or unplug them.

40. Switch to energy-efficient appliances when it’s time to replace (or even if it isn’t).

41. Only do full loads of laundry.

43. Hang clothes, sheets, and towels out on the line to dry in the breeze.

44. Fill your dishwasher before running it rather than cleaning partial loads.

45. Drop your phone landline and use your cell phone exclusively instead. 

46. Conduct an audit of your cell-phone usage: Cut cell-phone minutes or switch providers. Light cell-phone users are likely to find a prepaid service is more cost-effective than an ongoing subscription. If you’re not a heavy data user, you may be able to get by with just using wi-fi to access data from your phone.   

47. Consider sharing cell-phone service with family members or friends; you can usually add additional lines for a small charge per month.


48. Switch to a more fuel-efficient vehicle. This can be a particularly good idea if you log a lot of miles on the road, but it might not be cost-effective if you don’t drive as much.

49. If you don’t log many miles, investigate a car-sharing service, such as Zipcar, or rent a car rather than paying for maintenance and insurance for your own vehicle. 

50. In lieu of taxis, use a service such as Uber or Lyft, which can be more cost-effective. 

51. Bike or walk to your destinations, or use public transportation, rather than driving.

52. Take advantage of pretax benefts for users of public transit.

53. Wash your car at home rather than paying for car-washing services.

54. Check out websites like to find the lowest gasoline prices in your area.

Home Maintenance

55. Cut your own grass and tackle your own landscaping. You’ll save money and improve your fitness level, too. 

56. Reduce your dependence on chemical-based lawn-maintenance services. Your grass might not be as perfect, but you’ll have more money in your pocket and fewer chemicals on your lawn.

57. Drop your house-cleaning service or switch from once-weekly service to once every other week.

Personal Care

58. Experiment with drugstore brands to replace expensive department-store cosmetics.

59. Do your own manicures and pedicures.

60. Stop buying dry-clean-only clothes; learn to iron instead.

61. Walk, bike, run, or work out at a community recreation center rather than paying gym fees.

Insurance/Financial Services

62. Ask if you can qualify for discounts by consolidating homeowners and auto policies with a single firm.

63. Shop around for the best auto and homeowners insurance rates rather than automatically renewing with your current carrier. (Just be sure to the check claims-paying ability and financial stability of a prospective insurer first, using sources like

64. Ask for a loyalty discount if you decide to stick with the same insurer.

65. Think twice before making small claims on auto and homeowners insurance; the resultant bump-up in premiums could cost you far more than paying for the fix out of pocket.

66. Skip extended warranties. If replacing an item like a computer or a refrigerator wouldn’t put you in a financial bind, it’s usually not worth insuring it. 

67. Be scrupulous about paying your bills on time–and not just your insurance bills. Those with the highest credit ratings will qualify for the most advantageous rates.

68. Never let your policies lapse; you may pay a surcharge to reinitiate coverage.

69. Raise your deductible on your auto insurance, especially if you have a history of safe driving and you can afford to pay for smaller fixes out of pocket. Drop or reduce the collision and comprehensive coverage on your auto policy if you drive an older vehicle or one with high mileage.

70. Raise your deductible on your homeowners insurance but ask for a comparison first; the decrease in your premiums may be negligible.

71. Make sure the your homeowners insurance provider is using a realistic value for your home’s replacement cost; the value of the land shouldn’t be included.

72. Live in a disaster-prone area? See if you can qualify for a reduction in homeowners insurance rates by making your home more resistant to natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes.

73. Ask your insurer if having a home-alarm system or sprinkler system qualifies you for a discounted insurance rate.

74. Paying extra to insure valuable personal articles like jewelry and collectibles? Make sure you still own the items covered. And even if you do, they might be covered under your basic homeowners policy.

75. Investigate what perks come along with your credit card, such as extended warranties or insurance on car rentals.

76. Switch to a credit card with no annual fee, especially if you’re finding it difficult to actually take advantage of the so-called rewards that your rewards card offers. 

77. Investigate no-fee cards that pay you cash or rebates back on everyday purchases. Just be sure to read the fine print to ensure that your spending doesn’t have to hit a specific level before the cash-back offer kicks in.

78. If you carry a balance, call your credit card provider to ask for a reduction in your current interest rate. If that doesn’t work, transfer the balance to a card that offers a lower rate. (Just make sure to take stock of any balance-transfer, application, or processing fees; also make sure that your new rate isn’t a teaser rate that will shoot higher before you’ve paid off your balance.)

79. Travel overseas frequently? Avoid foreign transaction fees, which can run as high as 2% or 3%, by switching to a card that offers no foreign transaction fees.

80. Carry a balance on multiple cards? Consolidate those balances in the account that offers the most attractive rate. Again, be careful not to trigger new balance-transfer, application, or processing fees.

81. Investigate credit unions, which may offer higher yields and better loan and credit card rates than banks with a big brick-and-mortar presence (and more overhead expenses).

82. Don’t keep more in a non- or minimal-interest-bearing checking account than you need to; shop around for an account that doesn’t require a minimum balance and park the rest of your cash in a higher-yielding money market fund or certificate of deposit.

83. Ditto for paying fees on your checking account; at this point, it’s not difficult to find no-fee, no minimum balance accounts at firms such as Ally Bank. Online savings accounts can also be a great deal, often offering much higher yields than are available via conventional banks.

84. If you’d like to stick with your current bank but avoid extra fees, ask if your bank will waive fees if you sign on for additional services, such as electronic deposits of your Social Security checks or a money market account.

85. Don’t buy checks from your bank–use a service like Current or Checks in the Mail for low-cost checks instead.

86. Avoid overdraft fees by keeping close tabs on your monthly balance or linking your savings account to your checking. Opt out of overdraft protection, which means that the bank will cover you–and charge you a hefty fee–if you overdraw your account.

87. Watch ATM fees, either by sticking with your bank’s ATMs or opting for a bank that will offer rebates if you use an out-of-network ATM.

88. Pay bills online to save on stamps.

89. Don’t pay for tax-preparation services, especially if you have a straightforward tax return. Many communities offer free tax-preparation assistance.

90. Beware of “rapid refund” offers from tax-preparation firms, which are little more than high-interest loans. If you file your taxes electronically, your refund will come more quickly than you might think.

91. Don’t use prepaid credit cards as gifts for friends and family. Fees can be very high, and cash is much more flexible.

92. Consolidate your investments with a single firm so that you may qualify for lower-cost share classes and lower commission rates.

93. Do you have a small brokerage account that you haven’t touched since the dot-com bust? Close it or add more money to it to avoid ongoing account-maintenance and inactivity fees. Better yet, shop around for a brokerage that doesn’t charge any fees to maintain an account.

94. Don’t overpay for mutual funds. For bond funds, setting an expense ratio cutoff of 0.75% will still keep plenty of good options within reach. You can find many worthy stock funds for 1.00% or less–preferably much less. Index funds and exchange-traded funds, many of which have expense ratios of less than 0.25% per year, are especially appealing from a cost standpoint.

95. Use a low-turnover strategy to reduce the toll that commissions can exact on your investment account’s bottom line. If you actively trade a portion of your portfolio, switch to a provider that offers free online stock and ETF trades.

96. Use limit orders when trading low-liquidity securities to avoid being gouged by large bid-ask spreads; such orders ensure that you’ll only pay a specific, predetermined price for any securities you’re buying.

97. Don’t pay for more financial-planning advice than you actually need. If you need help with a specific task, such as a one-time portfolio overhaul, the hourly model will be more cost-effective than paying a percentage of your assets on an ongoing basis.

98. If your company-provided health savings account custodian levies a lot of fees or fields only high-cost funds, regularly switch out of that HSA and into one of your choosing, as discussed here

99. Ask for very specific annual cost estimates before signing on for a complicated and costly financial product, such as a variable annuity. If you’re seeing costs of more than 2% or 3% per year, ask your financial advisor whether there are cheaper ways to achieve the same general goals.

100. Mind the tax drag of non-retirement accounts. When selling winning holdings from your taxable account, scout around for losers you can sell to offset the capital gains. Choose tax-efficient holdings for your taxable account, including broad-market index funds and ETFs, tax-managed funds, and municipal bonds and bond funds. Rebalancing? Focus on your tax-sheltered accounts to avoid triggering an unwanted capital gains tax bill.

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UNC Asheville is a ‘Bee Campus USA’ – Asheville Citizen

ASHEVILLE – UNC Asheville is the eighth educational institution in the nation to be certified as an affiliate of the Bee Campus USA program, according to a news release from the university.

“We are proud to be among the first campuses to be certified by the Bee Campus USA program. Our campus has been very thoughtful about creating attractive and welcoming outdoor spaces, as well as serving as a living laboratory for our students,” UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary Grant said in the release. “This certification shines a spotlight the wonderful work that is being done here. Our students, faculty and staff are already working on pollinator health and sustainability issues and the members of our Bee Campus USA Committee will be excellent collaborators to these important conservation efforts.”

The Bee Campus USA designation recognizes educational campuses that commit to a set of practices that support pollinators, including bees, butterflies, birds, and bats, among thousands of other species.

According to UNC Asheville Environmental Specialist Jackie Hamstead, the university has planted hundreds of pollinator-friendly native plants and several pollinator gardens over the past several years. In 2014, UNCA was awarded four grants to enhance habitat for pollinators on campus.

Clumping no-mow grasses, perennial flower stems, and trees stumps/snags provide habitat for native ground-nesting bees and wasps.

A mobile-friendly Google map on the university’s pollinator page encourages self-guided tours. Last fall the Campus Operations Division hosted a workshop for managers of other large campuses on landscaping practices that support pollinators.

“Imperiled pollinators are responsible for the reproduction of more than two-thirds of the world’s plant and tree species,” said Bee Campus USA Director Phyllis Stiles. “UNC Asheville is a stellar example of the influence educational institutions can have on their students and larger communities. Their talented faculty, staff, and students offer an invaluable resource for Western North Carolina residents in seeking ways to manage ornamental landscapes in more wildlife-friendly ways.”

To raise awareness about the plight of pollinators, UNC Asheville has published a webpage to disseminate information to the campus and external communities including the university’s Integrated Pest Management Plan, a list of native plants incorporated into the campus landscape including their bloom time and habitat needs, links to student research into pollinator issues and information about upcoming events.

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Life after lawn: Native landscape offers seasonal inspiration

Recent rains have calmed our drought anxiety and those whose lawns have greened up again may be reprioritizing their one-time thoughts of landscape renovations.

However, regardless of your situation, there’s a place in the UC Davis Arboretum you should visit now that may make your gardening decisions easier — the Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California Native Plants.

Think you are already familiar with this place? Look again. Its recent renovations, improved interpretative signage and hidden areas to explore beneficial wildlife make this garden worthy of multiple visits.

That’s what friends Mary Major and garden namesake Mary Wattis Brown would want. A local and loyal Arboretum volunteer and member of the Arboretum’s support group, Major supported the implementation of this garden’s California native concept back in the 1970s, then chose to name it in honor of close family friend Mary Wattis Brown, an avid gardener and botanist.

Both Marys recognized the need for education to promote the conservation of California’s wild heritage in our home landscapes.

Thankfully, since then it’s been the Brown family, other Arboretum donors and a loyal group of volunteers who continue to support its care and development.

“This garden is in a great location, all along the south side of Lake Spafford. Hundreds a day stroll by but probably don’t truly experience the value of what is happening here,” says Stacey Parker, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden GATEways horticulturist, who has been lovingly maintaining and renewing this area for the past couple of years.

“With our recent renovations we’d like to see more people stopping to take it all in, to learn about the importance of California natives, and consider incorporating some of these plants at home.”

Although Parker claims she is still learning what blooms when, the waves of color and texture one notices with frequent visits say otherwise. The blooms of the California lilac fade just as the silver lupine send up their showy blue, conical flowers. Those blossoms turn to seed in time for the foothill penstemon to reveal its stems of densely packed purple buds not to mention the poppies!

Then there are the sages, buckwheats, fuchsias … the list goes on. But there’s more to experience here than a well-conducted symphony of California native plants.

Follow these tips for exploring the garden and discover what you may have been missing.

Crouch down and study the California pipevine. You’ll see patches of it lining Lake Spafford but be careful not to disturb any tiny rust-color eggs or the medieval-looking black caterpillars munching away on its leaves. Those will morph into fluttering pipevine swallowtail butterflies that then drink the nectar of nearby native sages.

Take a seat on the bench under one of the oldest trees in the garden, the Catalina cherry tree; you’ll see a plaque. It happens to be dedicated to Jack Major, Mary Major’s husband and beloved UC Davis professor of plant ecology. Now listen to the din of bees gathering nectar from the thousands billowy yellow blossoms above.

Familiarize yourself with the benefits of gardening with California natives by reading the freshly refurbished signage. Many feature Arboretum All-Stars, plants tested by Arboretum horticulturists and found to be attractive, reliable and low-water.

Lastly, come back as often as you can to gain a more in-depth appreciation for its seasonal changes.

“This garden is about showing the public that you’ve got a lot of choices when it comes to landscaping with natives,” Parker explains. “It’s never going to showcase the impossible displays of bulbs we see at other public gardens. It’s about real life and connecting to the cycles that take place in nature and that may take several visits. We are lucky this place is free!”

The Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California Native Plants, along with the entire UCD Arboretum, is open to the public 24 hours a day. This garden extends along the south side of Lake Spafford from Wyatt Deck all the way to Mrak Drive and all along Arboretum Drive.

Many of the natives grown here also will be available at the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden plant sale on Saturday.

Go shopping!

What: UC Davis Arboretum Public Plant Sale

When: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, April 23. Members save 10%. Not a member? Join at the door

Where: Arboretum Teaching Nursery, Garrod Drive, across from the School of Veterinary Medicine

Proceeds go to: Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden to support garden collections and educational outreach programming

Next public plant sale: Saturday, May 14 (clearance sale), 9 a.m.-1 p.m.


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Plant some ideas at annual Home and Garden fair

If you go

• What: 25th annual Home Garden Idea Fair presented by Clark Public Utilities.

• Featuring: Ideas and experts; plants and supplies for sale; kids’ activities and farmers market produce.

• When: Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• Where: Clark County Events Center at the Clark County Fairgrounds, 17402 N.E. Delfel Road, Ridgefield.

• Admission: Free.

• Parking: $6 per vehicle.

• Public transportation: In keeping with its green theme, the fair will provide free shuttle service to and from the Fisher’s Landing and 99th Street transit centers every 90 minutes.

• On the Web:; click the big “Home and Garden Idea Fair” window.

If you’re a homeowner, or even just a lawn mower, you’re well aware that spring has sprung. How did these blades and bushes already grow so tall and out of control?

Maybe keeping nature down is landscaping enough for you. But maybe you’d like to turn over a whole new leaf — lots and lots of beautiful, well-planned leaves — this year.

If so, start at the 25th annual Clark Public Utilities Home Garden Idea Fair. It’s a little like passing GO and collecting $200 worth of great inspiration for your perfect yard-to-be.

And not just inspiration. You’ll be able to buy plants and supplies of all sorts: Trees, shrubs, vegetable starts, flowers, native plants and hanging baskets are all for sale via more than 50 vendor members of the Specialty Nursery Association of Clark County. That’s a lot of human expertise alongside a lot of alive-and-growing wares.

But maybe your American dream is less about exterior greenery and more about the joys and comforts of your castle itself. Clark Public Utilities has you covered there, too. The Home Garden Idea Fair is a clearinghouse of expertise and products from more than 200 local home-building and home-improvement businesses that can help you with your duelling lists: the to-do and the to-dream. From flooring to roofing, from heat pumps to air conditioning, from windows to siding, you’ll find it all here.

Plus, there will be free 90-minute presentations on many hot topics, both indoor and outdoor. Take in tips for hiring the right home remodeler and avoiding scams, unearth the secrets of the great tomato growers, review the risks and rewards of keeping chickens or bees, size up eye-catching design touches that don’t break the bank.

This is the 25th annual home and garden event hosted by Clark Public Utilities, and spokeswoman Erica Erland said the agency has been gratified to watch it grow from “a couple of tables promoting energy efficiency and lower energy bills” to a popular yearly gathering of the home-improvement tribe.

Energy efficiency and lower bills remain the basic mission, Erland said. Now add personal safety and other useful information — for example, you can learn about putting the right project or planting the right tree in the right place to avoid power lines, sidewalks, sewers and other potentially expensive and even dangerous problems.

In fact, Erland noted, there’s a new public awareness campaign called “Think!” This partnership between Clark County and the Building Industry Association aims to promote knowledge of the hows and whys behind construction permitting and hiring, green building programs and techniques, and fighting fraud in the industry. All of which aims to get you better quality and peace of mind for your dollar, she said.

Clark Public Utilities is a customer-owned nonprofit agency, Erland pointed out, and the Home Garden Idea Fair “is a great way to give back. The community loves it and our staff loves it too. There’s no better way to get face to face with tens of thousands of our customers and to talk about the programs and services we provide.”

Other local nonprofits with an environmental mission will be on hand too, she added — from the Audubon Society to the Water Resources Center. There will be activities for kids and local farmers’ market produce for sale.

Innovative everything

If you’re interested in a thorough education in what’s new, efficient and simply smart in homebuilding these days, tour the Innovation Home, created by New Traditions Homes with materials and appliances by other local businesses. The Innovation Home includes LED lighting, a tankless water-heating system, smart low-voltage electrical panel, high-efficiency furnace and Energy Star appliances. Or, if you’re interested in downsizing in style, check out the 250-square-foot “tiny house” by Wolf Industries.

KXL-FM radio and Internet personalities Mike Darcy of “In the Garden” and Handyman Bob Strong of “Around the House” will both appear in person to broadcast their shows. Darcy’s “In the Garden” will be live from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday; Handyman Bob’s “Around the House” follows immediately, from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday.

And the Washington Association of Landscape Professionals will unveil a half-dozen landscape scenes meant to fire up your imagination (and maybe your willingness to hire a contractor). Themes like pollinating gardens, peaceful empty nests, water features and classy wrought iron should keep you inspired.

If you do buy plants or make other purchases, you’ll be able to park them in the plant-holding area near the “plant building” or in the package-holding area near the Exhibition Hall. CPU also advises you to bring a backpack, stroller or wagon if you plan to take away lots of stuff — and consider whether it’ll be most practical to wait until late in your visit to start laying down money and loading up. (There will be rentable wagons and boxes, a loading zone and an on-site cash machine too.)

Pigtail recycling

You’ve probably started replacing old incandescent light bulbs with those newfangled Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs — the ones that curl like pig tails. But guess what? Newfangled CFLs are so old-school. The state of the art is now Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs), Erland said.

So, this is the last time the fair will sponsor free CFL exchanges, Erland said. Bring as many as six burned-out CFLs to the fair for free recycling and replacement by Clark Public Utilities; plus, you’ll get a free bonus LED.

“It’s the last hurrah for CFLs,” Erland said. “Everything keeps changing.”

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Green tips from gardening guru Jason Hodges

JASON Hodges, resident gardener/landscaper with the Better Homes And Gardens television show, will be the guest speaker at Bathurst Regional Council’s Sustainable Living Expo tomorrow.

SPECIAL GUEST: Jason Hodges will be in Bathurst today and at Bathurst Regional Council’s Sustainable Living Expo tomorrow.

JASON Hodges, resident gardener/landscaper with the Better Homes And Gardens television show, will be the guest speaker at Bathurst Regional Council’s Sustainable Living Expo tomorrow. 

He will share his wisdom on sustainable gardening at the expo, which will be held in conjunction with the Bathurst Farmers’ Markets.

Deputy mayor Ian North said Mr Hodges will deliver two talks during the morning, and they will be about using Bathurst Regional Council’s new food and garden waste collection service and using compost and soil products in your backyard.

He will also demonstrate the benefits of using raised garden beds and offer tips on plant selection to suit the local climate.

“Jason has been involved in the building and garden industry for many years, running his own business and appearing on Better Homes And Gardens and Sydney Weekender,” Cr North said.

“He will have plenty of insights to share with those attending the expo. The expo will also feature a range of other stallholders and entertainment including street theatre and a wildlife show.”

While Mr Hodges is in Bathurst he will take part in two other community events. 

Today he will visit Rahamim Ecology Centre and provide tips on landscaping your sustainable backyard.

Tomorrow afternoon he will visit the Community Garden in Church Lane, building a compost pile, a mud kitchen and planting out a new garden bed with vegetables.

“It will be a busy couple of days but one that I’m sure will create plenty of interest among gardeners and would-be gardeners as they learn from one of the industry’s best,” Cr North said.

Cr North said the Shoalhaven Zoo animal show will return to the expo this year and will include a koala, wombat, joey kangaroo, carpet python, saltwater crocodile, bearded dragon, frill neck lizard and a blue tongue lizard.

The expo will also feature Green Street Theatre family fun, eco-cleaning workshops, community groups, sustainable business stalls, family activities, solar power displays, green design and construction, conservation and wildlife care displays.

Council will use compost from ANL’s processing facility at Blayney in the expo gardening projects. 

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Tribune News Service photos

The secret to a productive garden is getting started right, choosing the right location, preparing the soil and picking the right plant for the right season.

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Spring gardening tips

MARION — Springtime means it’s cleaning and planting season for many of us, but for some, planting and maintaining a garden can be intimidating.

Cathy Stetson, manager of Changing Seasons, says don’t bite off more than you can chew.

“A lot of people plant more than they can handle, you know,” said Stetson.

A garden that is too big can crowd the plants and not give them the space they need to grow.

“Tomatoes can get really big and you have to make sure you can prune them back and make sure they get enough air flow to get the right amount of fruit,” said Stetson.

So in this case, size matters when picking what to plant.

If planting veggies aren’t your thing, landscaping may be.

Most of the same gardening rules apply but it may take a little more attention to detail, according to Michelle Zientek, assistant manager of Changing Seasons.

“The first thing I ask people is if it’s for sun and shade,” said Zientek.

She continued to say, picking the right spot for flowering plants is where it begins.

The dirt plays a major role as well, especially for Hydrangeas.

“Pink, purple or blue flower depending on your soil,” added Zientek. “So the more acid you add to your soil, the more blue it will be. The more lime you add to it, the more pink it will be. If it’s neutral it will be purple,” said Zientek

Soil can be checked by using a PH soil test kit.

Last but not least, you’ll have to decide how to protect your plants.

Use insecticides or something more organic?

“Most natural thing you can do is do a lady bug release. Lady bugs can eat up to 50 insects per day,” said Stetson.

So whether it’s vegetables or flowers, getting started is half the battle.

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Tips to get your garden growing

Now gardening season is on its way, but don’t let all this nice weather fool you. The last average frost date in the Great Falls area is May 15th, but now might be a good time to start thinking about exactly what you want to plant in your garden.

“There are certain things you can plant right now, potatoes, radishes, certain amount of things like that,” said Marcia Bundi, Co-Owner of Bundi Gardens in Great Falls.

Marcia Bundi has some simple tips to get your garden going this season. Tip number one is to hold off on planting more popular peppers and tomatoes, because these plants don’t hold up too well in night time temps that dip below 40 or 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

“(W)hen it’s cold out like it still is, people need to wait. And yeah, I know it’s hard when it’s hot out during the day, because we’re breaking records perhaps,” Bundi said.

Late April is a good time to start preparing for the actual planting. Once you pick up the seeds and garden tools, Bundi says it’s time to start planning out your garden plot.

“Most things need full sun, that means all day. I know some of the references say six hours but in our climate it really isn’t enough,” Bundi said.

Bundi’s next tip is to start by managing a small garden about four feet long by four feet wide, and then build on that foundation..Now, what about adding some fruit to the mix, like apples, pear and plums. Lonnie Hill of Forde nursery in Great Falls has a few more tips.

“First of all they have to have full sun, and they also usually enjoy well drained soil. They don’t like wet feet,” Hill said.

Hill says some of those plants need a cross-pollinator. He suggests planting two separate varieties of trees close together so bees can pollinate both trees.

“So if you do the planning correctly, you can sit back and let the bees do the work and enjoy tree ripened fruit,” Hill said.

garden experts say that no matter what you decide to plant this season, it’s always a good idea to check with local sources before starting your own garden.

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