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Keeping Your Ghosts and Goblins Safe this Halloween

Creating the perfect Halloween Haunted House can be a spooktacular experience! Remember that ghosts and goblins of all ages will be running through your yard to fill their bags up with treats as they race from house to house. Crafting a scary yet safe environment can mean the difference between a hauntingly good time and someone actually getting hurt.  Lighting is one of the most important aspects of creating a frightening ambiance. A well-lit yard with low voltage LED lights not only can light your walkways and sidewalks, but are economical to install and maintain. Compliment your LED lights with Jack-O-Lanterns that have glow sticks inside or battery powered lights to help illuminate your yard without being a fire hazard. Also check to make sure that your outdoor lights are working including flood or sensor lights.  In addition to setting up lighting, make sure to clean up your yard before the big night. Remove all tripping hazards like children’s toys, hoses, bikes and mark any exposed tree roots to ensure they can be seen by every child in costume; especially those with masks as part of their outfit. Leaves should be raked away from sidewalks and curbs so everyone can identify where the drop off is between sidewalk and street. Pets can be cute dressed up in costume for Halloween but it is best if they are leashed so they do not inadvertently jump or bite someone. Also, some children are highly allergic to dogs and cats so do not let Fido or Kitty help answer the door; especially with little kids that may be frightened of your pet.  Halloween can be a fun night for trick or treaters of all ages. Creating a spooky

Do You Have Mulch Volcanoes?

Spring is finally here and both home and commercial properties are starting to come alive. You can see daffodils blooming, grass growing and trees showing signs of life with new growth on every branch. Something that you also start to see this time of year is mulch in flower beds and around the bases of trees. Mulch is a material, such as decaying leaves, bark, or compost, that is spread around or over a plant or tree to enrich or insulate the soil. This added nutrient is essential to assist in the growing process. However, over mulching is a serious and common problem through Northern Virginia; especially around the base of trees. Have you walked through your neighborhood or around your office complex only to see mulch piled up around the base of trees, entirely covering the roots? This is known as a mulch volcano and what this is doing is chocking the life out of the tree. When you walk through the woods, you can see the root flare as the soil and base of the tree meet. The tree is growing, and does not have piles of compost surrounding the roots. The roots of the tree take nutrients and chemicals out of the soil and use them to produce what they need for the tree's growth, development, and repair. With a mulch volcano, this process is interrupted at the very least and can cause “suffocation” of the living tree. Sometimes you still end up with trees that have piles of mulch around them.  If over-mulching has been going on for a long time; the roots begin to grow in this mulch layer and it becomes more difficult over time to get these piles down. 

Managing Your Irrigation System

Irrigation, also known as ‘Irritation’, a well deserved nick name, is the topic of the day. It is hard to install, hard to repair, and even harder to manage it correctly. What a lot of irrigation consumers run into, and do not even realize, are that an incorrect amount of water is being dispersed. Some consumers, because of the lack of education, do not know how to correctly apply run-times, which days to water, and more importantly how much water an individual plant or turf area needs. It's very easy to turn on your irrigation without knowing too much about irrigation in general. But you may not know that there is so much more to it than going to the main irrigation valve and turning on your irrigation controller (which probably has the original times set from installation). More than likely, when the irrigation company installed your system, they put in generic run times that they put in for ALL installations. They will apply 20 minutes for rotors, 10 minutes for pop-ups, and 20-30 minutes for soaker hoses. While all of that sounds great and uniform it doesn't always work for all given plant material and locations. It also doesn't take into account the special needs for your property or the change of seasons. Your irrigation system plays a vital role in the growth and development of your plants and turf. It isn’t as simple as turning it off and on. A lot of plants are very picky about how much water they get, even turf. It is crucial that your irrigation system be regularly monitored and maintained for both the plant material and the conservation of water. We can claim to live in Northern

Landscape Lighting: Low Voltage Vs. Solar

There are two main types of landscape lights that homeowners purchase; low voltage landscape lights and solar landscape lights. Let’s compare the two and see which type is the better value: Low Voltage Landscape Lights Have excellent light output Enough to see clearly by for safe walking or illuminating trees and architectural features of your home Are constructed of quality materials We use Alliance fixtures and systems, which are made from solid brass and carry a lifetime fixture warranty. www.allianceoutdoorlighting.com Use quality components Alliance lighting systems use warm white LED bulbs that are rated to last 50,000 hours, and have outdoor rated connections and underground wiring. Alliance LED bulbs have a nice warm white color identical to traditional incandescent bulbs Are very efficient Contemporary low voltage lighting systems use LED bulbs, with transformers that shut the system off during the day, either with a timer or light sensor Solar Landscape Lights Have low light output Enough light to mark borders or edges of pathways, but are not bright to see clearly for walking. They cannot be used for lighting architecture or trees Are constructed of cheap materials Most solar lights are made from plastic or aluminum. Plastic fixtures oxidize and become brittle over time. Aluminum doesn’t rust, but the finish still oxidizes fades over time, especially the aluminum painted to look like copper. They usually look good for a year then start to degrade. The tiny stakes that come with the lights are easily broken if the lights are knocked over or hit Use generic cheap components Most solar lights are constructed using low power LED bulbs with a blue color, and use NiCad rechargeable batteries which don’t hold an overnight charge and will retain