Thursday, July 19, 2012

It's not easy being Green

It's nice to have ideals, it's nice to have values, it's nice to stick to them 100% of the time but sometimes it's not always realistic.

Take "going green," for example. There are some people that go to extremes: buying only organic produce, walking or biking everywhere, using "green" toilet bowl cleaner (I mean really?). It's these type of people that have turned "going green" into a dogma that must be strictly followed. I mean, god forbid you should throw away that banana peel instead of composting it.

When I got pregnant, I had lofty ideas of cleaning up my act and being more "green." I bought cloth diapers, switched to organic produce and even bought a few "green" cleaning products. The reality is that now that my baby is here, cloth diapers lead to 50% shorter naps (he wakes up when he's wet), organic produce is not always affordable, and I still haven't found the time to clean.

But I've made compromises. I try to use cloth diapers a couple of times a day (not before naps!), I eat organic when I can, and, ok, I still haven't found much time to clean green or not green.

The same applies to your yard. You don't have to choose the "sustainable choice" 100% of the time, but making a conscious effort to be more environmentally friendly when you can does have an impact (however small it may be).

Lawn: The trade off: You want a green lawn but you know its not sustainable to water your yard. Solution:
Cut back on watering. A 10' x 10' area requires 62.3 gallons a water a week to water the recommended amount of 1" of water but many people use more. You can also adjust your sprinklers to make sure they aren't watering your driveway or the sidewalk. Also, make sure you are watering your grass early in the morning or in the evening to prevent rapid evaporation. Installing rain barrels or cisterns are also a good option to cut back on water use.

Landscape: The trade off: You want a beautifully landscaped yard, but know that things like using fertilizer and invasive species is not good for the earth. The solution: Plant native plants. They require less maintenance and fertilizer since they are already adapted to the climate. If you can't give up fertilizer, try using an organic brand. Use mulch from a recycled source.

Hardscapes: The trade off: You want to create an outdoor oasis with a patio or deck but you know that impermeable hardscapes cause erosion, run-off and limit the amount of green space. The solution: Permeable pavers and pervious concrete are a great option to help prevent erosion, while still providing the look and functionality of  a traditional hardscape. If you can't spring for these more expensive materials, try adding a separate drainage system that incorporates into the hardscape (generally less expensive). Use a low SRI material (lighter in color) to prevent the "heat island effect" and add plants or built-in planters to incorporate green space.

I hope these simple tips help you understand that even if you can't be 100% green, you can make a conscious effort to do what's right for the environment on a smaller scale. Every little thing helps!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tree Service Insurance Claims

With the recent storm, we have been spending a lot of time removing damaged trees and restoring damaged property. Most of our work has been covered by the home owners’ insurance policies, which is great when it comes to avoiding a huge unexpected expense.  However, an emergency situation is never the best time to have to figure out your insurance’s coverage and procedures. Below is a simple guide to some of the most frequent questions we receive from homeowners:

  1. If your neighbor’s tree falls in your yard, whose responsibility is it? The short answer is that it is YOUR responsibility. If their tree falls on your property, it is considered an act of God, and will be covered by your insurance policy unless you can prove that they knew the tree was a hazard before it fell and that they could have prevented the damage.  BE PROACTIVE If you notice that a neighbor’s tree looks like it poses a hazard, have a chat with your neighbor about getting it removed. If they are not receptive to the idea, get a letter from a certified company stating that the tree is a hazard and should be removed. That way, you will be prepared if it does cause any damages to your property.
  2. What will my insurance company cover? Most policies cover removal of trees and debris that cause damage to your property (i.e. house, deck, fence, shed etc.) Insurance usually does not cover a tree (or portion of a tree) that is still standing or a tree that has fallen on the ground, but has not damaged any of your property.
  3. There is a tree on my roof, do I have to wait for a claims adjuster? In case of emergency you usually do not need to wait for your insurance to give you a quote to remove the tree from your roof and cover any holes with a tarp. A tree sitting on your roof is liable to cause more damage while you wait! However, do make sure that you document the damages and save invoices and receipts to make sure that you are reimbursed. Also note that for repairs (such as damage to your roof) you may need to wait for a claim adjuster.
  4. How much is going to come out of my pocket? You will only have to pay for your insurance policy’s deductible. In an emergency, don’t worry about shopping around for the lowest quote. You insurance company will handle payment for the tree service. This is why it is important to use a company that is knowledgeable about tree service and certified to handle tree removal. Using an unreliable, unlicensed and uninsured  service company could end up costing you more in the long run.
  5. What can I do to prevent damage in the first place? Be proactive. Even if your insurance company covers damage and repairs, it’s better not to risk it. Storm related tree damage can cause severe property damage, injury and even death. Get hazardous trees and limbs removed. Contact a licensed tree expert or arborist for a tree assessment.

We hope this advice helps demystify things for you. Please contact us (301-603-1080) if you have any questions or if you would like a tree assessment. Also, insurance policies differ, while our advice applies to *MOST* policies, be sure to check with your agent to make sure you know the facts.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Enjoy your yard more!

Ever stepped into your backyard and thought "Ugh this place is a mess: weeds, mosquitoes, grass as high as my knees and when did that ditch in the middle of my yard turn into a swap." Yes, keeping your yard up is a lot of work, and unless you love gardening, heading out in the scorching summer heat to mow, weed and fertilize after a long day at work is NOT exactly what I'd call "enjoying your yard."

That's why I've come up with these simple tips to help you start enjoying your own personal outdoor space more.

1. Hire Professionals: Think about how much your time is worth. Do you really want to spend your beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon hunched over a patch of dirt? Our lawn maintenance packages are affordable, and you can't beat the feeling of coming home to a gorgeous yard full of green grass and beautiful flowers. Plus, professionals know what they are doing and can arguably do a better job than you could on your own. Look for an all inclusive package that includes a spring and fall clean-up, fertilizer applications, core aeration and leaf clean-up in the fall. Soon you'll have more free time to spend with family and friends!

2. Get the Edge: Edging helps create a defined and finished look to your mulched trees and flowerbeds. For a long lasting, and more refined looking edge, we often create small retaining walls using interlocking concrete blocks.

3. Install a Patio or Deck: Creating a defined place to enjoy gatherings with family and friends will give you a new reason to celebrate. And if you read our post on how to "Pimp your Patio" you can create an outdoor oasis.

4. Plant some Trees: It is officially summer and you know that means 100 degree days under the blazing sun. Forget expensive awnings! There is no better or greener way to give your yard the shade you crave than by planting trees. As a bonus, large trees shading your house can help you to cut your A/C bills in the summer.

5. Solve Drainage Issues: Hate Mosquitoes? Mosquitoes love water and water pools when you have drainage issues. We can solve your drainage issues with waterproofing, french drains, pop-up emitters and swales. Less standing water means less places for bugs to breed. It also means more yard to enjoy and less swamp!

Try implementing some of these ideas and let me know if you are able to better enjoy your yard. This is the first official weekend in summer so there is no better time to start enjoying your yard than now!

P.S. If your kids are home for the summer, a great backyard is a wonderful way to kill some time and burn off some energy!