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Tag Archive | "tips"

Spring Lawn and Landscape Tips


From yard work and pest control to cleaning and taking care of home systems, there’s a lot that goes into maintaining a house. Everything Home offers practical tips and expert know-how to help anyone take good care of their home.

 

(Family Features) A beautiful landscape doesn’t happen on its own. You can help your lawn, trees and shrubs get off to a healthy growing season.

“Trees and shrubs add tremendous appeal to our urban home environments, but to thrive, particularly out of their natural world, they require regular care with added nutrients and protection against invasive pests,” said Ben Hamza, Ph.D., director of technical operations at TruGreen.

Here are some lawn and landscape tips to help you take care of your yard this spring.

Clean Up: New spring growth can be hampered if it’s covered with debris. Clean out dead leaves, branches, trash or anything else that could impair your lawn’s growth.

Prune Properly: Corrective pruning of your trees and shrubs can make them not only look better, but help them grow better, too.

• Don’t top-shear overgrown shrubs or trees – thin them out to preserve their shape.

• Spring-blooming plants like azaleas, rhododendrons, forsythia and lilacs should only be pruned after they flower.

Put the Right Plants in the Right Place: When you’re ready to plant new plants, make sure you put them where they’ll thrive.

• Be sure you know the light requirements for a new plant.

• Fences or other structures can restrict air flow, which can interfere with growth.

• Make sure you have the right type of grass for your lawn. Wherever grass has a hard time growing, plant shady ground covers instead.

• If you’re considering sod, make sure the temperature is warm enough for grass growth. Firmly pack sod into the soil and water as needed to encourage deep root growth.

Nourish the Roots: Spring lawn, tree and shrub roots seek nourishment after the dormancy of winter.

• Make sure your early spring fertilizer has less nitrogen and more phosphorus to promote strong roots. Consider a professional company, such as TruGreen, which will design a custom plan to give your yard exactly what it needs.

• Be sure to keep fertilizer on target to prevent run-off, and sweep fertilizer granules that may reach pavement back onto your lawn.

Get Ready to Water: Give your lawn a slow, steady watering about once a week, but adjust depending upon rainfall, grass and soil type in your area.

• Follow the owner’s operating manual to take an automated sprinkler system out of hibernation. Ensure sprinkler heads and related water lines are working properly.

• Make sure the irrigation system covers your landscape efficiently. For example, you can place a one-inch deep, empty food can in the middle of the lawn area to measure the depth of water collected after each watering cycle to ensure uniformity.

Mulch the Right Way: Mulch can keep soil in place, reduce weeds and retain moisture. But you need to make sure you’re doing it right.

• When the soil has warmed up, apply three inches of organic mulch to base of shrubs and trees to help conserve soil moisture and to reduce weed pressure. But be mindful not to cover the flare of the tree base in mulch “volcanoes,” which can lead to rot.

• When your lawn is actively growing, return grass clippings back to the soil for added lawn nutrients and consider using composted materials to nourish plants.

For more tips, visit www.TruGreen.com.

Posted in Diggin' Spring, FeaturedComments Off

Ten tips to help you choose a tax preparer


Many people look for help from professionals when it’s time to file their tax return. If you use a paid tax preparer to file your return this year, the IRS urges you to choose that preparer wisely. Even if a return is prepared by someone else, the taxpayer is legally responsible for what’s on it. So, it’s very important to choose your tax preparer carefully.
This year, the IRS wants to remind taxpayers to use a preparer who will sign the returns they prepare and enter their required Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).
Here are ten tips to keep in mind when choosing a tax return preparer:
1. Check the preparer’s qualifications. New regulations require all paid tax return preparers to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. In addition to making sure they have a PTIN, ask if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization and attends continuing education classes. The IRS is also phasing in a new test requirement to make sure those who are not an enrolled agent, CPA, or attorney have met minimal competency requirements. Those subject to the test will become a Registered Tax Return Preparer once they pass it.
2. Check on the preparer’s history. Check to see if the preparer has a questionable history with the Better Business Bureau and check for any disciplinary actions and licensure status through the state boards of accountancy for certified public accountants; the state bar associations for attorneys; and the IRS Office of Enrollment for enrolled agents.
3. Ask about their service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.  Also, always make sure any refund due is sent to you or deposited into an account in your name.  Under no circumstances should all or part of your refund be directly deposited into a preparer’s bank account.
4. Ask if they offer electronic filing.  Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients must file the returns electronically, unless the client opts to file a paper return.  More than 1 billion individual tax returns have been safely and securely processed since the debut of electronic filing in 1990.  Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file.
5. Make sure the tax preparer is accessible.  Make sure you will be able to contact the tax preparer after the return has been filed, even after the April due date, in case questions arise.
6. Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare your return. Reputable preparers will request to see your records and receipts and will ask you multiple questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items. Do not use a preparer who is willing to electronically file your return before you receive your Form W-2 using your last pay stub. This is against IRS e-file rules.
7. Never sign a blank return. Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.
8. Review the entire return before signing it.  Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.
9. Make sure the preparer signs the form and includes their PTIN.  A paid preparer must sign the return and include their PTIN as required by law. Although the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return.  The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.
10. Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS on Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. Download Form 14157 from www.irs.gov or order by mail at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Posted in Tax TimeComments Off

Resolve to eat better in 2012


Get tips while shopping

From the Kent County Health Department

The holidays seem to catch up with us quickly. Eating, drinking and being merry can sometimes lead you to pack on the pounds. Statistics show nearly half of Americans will make a New Year’s resolution, but a third of those resolutions will be broken by the end of January!
The Kent County Health Department can help you with one of the top New Year’s Resolutions: developing healthy eating habits, through Individualized Nutrition Counseling and Grocery Store Tours. Our registered dietician, Sarah VanEerden, offers nutrition services to individuals, schools, community groups, and worksites. Sarah will take your concerns to the store–literally! She offers grocery store tours to teach healthy buying habits. The tour is free, lasts 90 minutes to two hours, and can be tailored to fit the specific dietary needs of you and your family.
For more information, call her at (616) 632-7286.

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Get your garden growing


Four tips for starting a garden

(Family Features) The popularity of gardening is growing. In fact, according to the National Gardening Association,* more than 70 percent of all U.S. households participate in one or more type of do-it-yourself outdoor lawn and garden activity, with flower and vegetable gardening topping the most popular activities.
If you haven’t joined the millions of Americans who enjoy gardening yet, this year is your chance. Whether you want to start a garden as a new hobby to beautify your yard or to enjoy the fresher tastes of home grown vegetables, getting started can be easy.
Here are some expert tips from Black & Decker to help you start your own garden this spring:
•    Know the Lay of the Land – Assess the gardening conditions in your yard before you dig your first hole or plant your first seed. Conditions such as sun, shade, soil type, climate and moisture levels are all key factors to consider when creating your gardening plan.
•    Prepare Your Soil – Healthy soil translates to better plant growth, so be sure your soil has the nutrients it needs to flourish. Talk to a representative at your local home and garden center for tips on choosing the right type of fertilizer based on the soil and the plants you’re growing.
•    Choose and Care for Plants Expertly – Once you’ve prepared your gardening space, you can begin to explore plant options available. To prevent the discouraging cycle of trial and error gardening with new plants, try Black & Decker’s new PlantSmart digital plant care sensor, a revolutionary gardening tool that provides expert advice for growing and maintaining all types of plants and flowers, both indoors and out. Its reusable, water-resistant sensor uses patented technology to measure key environmental information from sunlight and temperature to moisture, soil conditions and more. Your readings are then uploaded to your personal PlantSmart online account and combined with real-time climate and horticultural information from your local area, for a foolproof gardening experience. This tool will help ensure you are choosing and growing the right plants in your new garden.
•    Take the First Dig – When you’re ready, dig a hole that is slightly bigger and deeper than your plant’s roots, and gently place the plant in the prepared hole. Pat the surrounding soil down firmly, but don’t pack it, and be sure to leave enough space between plants. If using seeds, refer to the package’s directions to gauge the soil depth needed for proper growth; drop the seeds in and place soil firmly on top.
Armed with expert advice from Black & Decker and its new PlantSmart tool, your garden is sure to be a success this year.
For additional tips, and to learn more about PlantSmart and other innovative outdoor products from Black & Decker, visit www.blackanddecker.com or www.rechargeyouryard.com.
*National Gardening Association’s 2010 National Gardening Survey; page five

Posted in Diggin' Spring, FeaturedComments Off

Seven vehicle maintenance tips


Professional preventative maintenance can help keep your car on the road to safety and savings.

(NAPS)—A good way to drive down the cost of keeping your car is to have a professional check it regularly, at least seven ways:
1.    Check Tires. Tire wear is a good indicator of how the steering and suspension are performing. Excessive edge, center or shoulder wear suggest other maintenance is needed. Check air pressure on all tires, including the spare, as incorrect tire pressure can cause tires to wear prematurely. Tread and sidewall areas should be inspected for uneven or irregular wear and replaced if worn or damaged.
2.    Check Brakes. Pads, shoes, rotors, calipers, fittings, brake hardware and parking brake should be checked. If your brakes squeal, it may be time for replacements.
3.    Check Fluid Levels. Engine oil should be changed or replenished and all vehicle fluids and lubricants checked and changed at factory-recommended intervals. Low or dirty fluids can damage your engine.
4.    Check Engine Belts, Ho­ses and Fuel Filter. In today’s vehicles, a single drive belt provides power to many engine accessories and hoses carry vital fluids under high pressure. Prevent a breakdown or serious engine damage by replacing belts and hoses at recommended intervals.
5.    Change Air Filter. The air filter is designed to protect your engine from airborne contaminants. Poor airflow to the engine inhibits performance and can mean greater fuel consumption. A new air filter lets clean, unrestricted air flow into the engine for proper performance and longer car life.
6.    Check Battery. Whether for starting up in the morning or running the air-conditioning and other accessories, the battery is critical. Corroded terminals or a bulging or cracked case are signs it’s been subjected to extreme conditions. Each battery has a limited “life” to it. Test yours and replace it if necessary.
7.    Check Wiper Blades. Worn wiper blades can affect your ability to see the road and vehicles in front of you. For greater visibility and smooth operation, Mopar all-season wiper blades are built for the long haul and feature a strong, all-metal superstructure for durable, reliable performance. An innovative wear indicator gradually turns from black to green to yellow as the blades wear. Mopar is Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts and customer-care brand.
According to Mopar’s Jim Sassorossi, “Performing preventative maintenance is critical for maintaining the safety and performance of your vehicle. Our technicians have the expertise, tools and factory-backed parts for these vehicles. And they work on them every single day.”
Learn More
More information and a complete list of accessories and performance parts are at www.mopar.com.

Posted in Auto LifeComments Off

Tips to spring into fitness


If you haven’t run all winter, it’s best to ease into a spring exercise routine.

(NewsUSA) – As the temperature starts to warm, many Americans think about lacing up their running shoes or pulling out their tennis rackets. But don’t let spring fitness fever corrupt your good judgment — if you haven’t exercised all winter, it’s better to ease into physical activity.

Not sure where to start? Here are some tips:

• Start slow. Attempting too much too soon will result in an injury or “hitting a wall” –reaching a point where your body can no longer recover from exercise. It takes about three weeks for your body to adjust to a new exercise routine and about six weeks before you’re ready for more aggressive activity. If you’re running, start with exercising three days a week. If you’re walking, you may be able to handle four or five days of exercise from the start. Increasing the duration or intensity of exercise by more than 10 percent each week puts you at a greater risk of injury, so be sure to progress gradually.
• Get the right equipment. Wear clothes that wick sweat — you’ll be much more comfortble. If you’re a runner, proper footgear will help your legs avoid unnecessary strain. Likewise, a well-fit bicycle can help cyclists avoid knee and other injuries.

• Don’t push through pain. Most exercise injuries are overuse injuries, meaning they occur when athletes push their muscles, tendons and bones past their limits. One sign that you’ve reached your limit? Pain. If you experience real discomfort, it’s better to take a few days off or see a doctor than risk worsening an injury.

Of course, some muscle pain is perfectly normal for those starting up an exercise routine. Schedule recovery days –days in which you either don’t exercise or engage in very light activity — to give your muscles a chance to rebuild between workouts.

If you experience routine muscle soreness, a topical product may help speed your recovery. For example, one product, Absorbine Jr. (www.absorbinejr.com), contains natural menthol and herbal extracts. The liquid pain reliever creates a penetrating warmth to soothe sore muscles, aching joints, arthritis and back and foot pain. Because it increases blood flow to sore muscles, Absorbine Jr. actually helps muscles heal as it provides pain relief. Absorbine products were initially formulated to soothe the strong muscle pain in horses. This inspired Absorbine Jr. for humans.

Posted in HealthComments Off

Eight tips for deducting charitable contributions


Charitable contributions made to qualified organizations may help lower your tax bill. The IRS has put together the following eight tips to help ensure your contributions pay off on your tax return.

If your goal is a legitimate tax deduction, then you must be giving to a qualified organization. Also, you cannot deduct contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations and candidates. See IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, for rules on what constitutes a qualified organization.

To deduct a charitable contribution, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions on Schedule A.

If you receive a benefit because of your contribution such as merchandise, tickets to a ball game or other goods and services, then you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.

Donations of stock or other non-cash property are usually valued at the fair market value of the property. Clothing and household items must generally be in good used condition or better to be deductible. Special rules apply to vehicle donations.

Fair market value is generally the price at which property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither having to buy or sell, and both having reasonable knowledge of all the relevant facts.

Regardless of the amount, to deduct a contribution of cash, check, or other monetary gift, you must maintain a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written communication from the organization containing the name of the organization, the date of the contribution and amount of the contribution. For text message donations, a telephone bill will meet the record-keeping requirement if it shows the name of the receiving organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount given.

To claim a deduction for contributions of cash or property equaling $250 or more you must have a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written acknowledgment from the qualified organization showing the amount of the cash and a description of any property contributed, and whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift. One document may satisfy both the written communication requirement for monetary gifts and the written acknowledgement requirement for all contributions of $250 or more. If your total deduction for all noncash contributions for the year is over $500, you must complete and attach IRS Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, to your return.

Taxpayers donating an item or a group of similar items valued at more than $5,000 must also complete Section B of Form 8283, which generally requires an appraisal by a qualified appraiser.

For more information on charitable contributions, refer to Form 8283 and its instructions, as well as Publication 526, Charitable Contributions. For information on determining value, refer to Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. These forms and publications are available at http://www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Posted in Tax TimeComments Off


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