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D.I.Y. or NOT

When it comes to doing something myself; either for the adventure of it, as means to create a healthier product or just save some money, I’m interested. Sometimes my efforts and time prove to be worth it in the short and long term. Other times, things have not gone as smoothly as planned or promised and end up costing me much more in time and money. Because of these experiences, and what I have seen the average homeowner implement over the years, I’m more than happy to direct my clients on practices and/or projects that would make sense for them to do themselves. In landscaping and landscape construction, this means leaving the initial ground work and design to someone who has either the right conditioned muscles or design or horticultural experience. I believe that I have ‘fixed’ as many D.I.Y. projects for homeowners and property managers as I have implemented anew. Sometimes just having a new perspective by someone, not intimately involved with your site, can help you with the details and the whole picture. I’m always very careful about asking who was responsible for the existing work, as I know that I am sometimes dealing with embarrassment, pride and even…

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Experience Matters

About 25 years ago I was called to provide pricing for a rather extensive drainage project in Bethesda, Md. The homeowner had consulted with an experienced builder and drainage expert who had provided recommendations for keeping existing underground water (springs) away from their home. I was asked to review their site and then talk directly to the gentleman who had made the recommendations. This was my first introduction to Alvin Sacks. Since this initial project together, through numerous other collaborations on storm water and site drainage over many years, Alvin has provided me with a wealth of information, advice and sound common sense when it comes to hydrology. To know that water flows down hill is simply not enough. Alvin says you must understand the “science” and how it relates to the structure of your home and site. Approximately 10 years ago, Alvin invited me to be a member of a group of professional business people in the Metropolitan area whose purpose was to help each other in business through information and leads. Alvin is one of the founding members of Metronet and, as far as I know, has rarely missed a meeting. I learned more about Alvin at these…

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Melting Snow and Molds

OK, it's going to melt....we hope.  This is when the saturation starts along the exterior walls of the foundation. If the gutters have pulled away from the house it's only going to get worse.  I don't know about you, but my mold allergies keep me vigilant year-round for water seapage.  It's easier to prevent than fix.  I've been in many homes where the residents are living with and breathing black mold everyday!!  They just got used to it and yet they only buy organic foods!!!  It's like my painter telling me his health concerns about lead-based paints and how he takes a meter with him to check the levels before sanding; (which is a important and necessary), but meanwhile, he is puffing on a cigarette!!! Fortunately, my body tells me when mold is around.  I can feel it immediately. My mother-in-law died 5 years ago from pulmonary fibrosis.  When she was sick the doctors could not figure out what was wrong with her.  She remembered that in the house she used to play in across the street as a child, every member of that family died from pulmonary fibrosis.  She mentioned this to her doctor who tested her and confirmed that she did, indeed, have the disease.  She and her brother…

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What difference does 1 Lousy Rain Barrel make?!

Through a series of coincidental meetings (the third being a clear indication for action) I enrolled and was accepted into the Watershed Stewards Academy (WSA). For the next several months I have/will attend evening classes at the Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center in Severn, Md. along with weekend intensive trainings in various locations throughout the County. "The quintessential role of Master Watershed Stewards (which I intend to be one of) is to organize community action toward the restoration and preservation of our watersheds” and, in particular, to learn, in depth, pollution source reduction strategies – Capturing water at its source is still the best way to reduce the pollutant load it carries to a stream. During one of the first evening lectures Stephen Barry, the coordinator of the Outdoor/Environmental Education, told us future Stewards that we would be getting our very own rain barrel.  I thought, great, 1 barrel - how much good will that do; I don’t even have gutters.  Don’t get me wrong, I know the value of water and never take it for granted; turning the shower off while I soap up and the like.  I’m incensed when the media refers to rain as a ‘threat’ as…

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Proper Insulation Can Save your Plants!

This past snow was exciting, beautiful, and for some, provided much needed time indoors.  For others, the snow and subsequent colder temperatures cost much more than they anticipated. Attic spaces that are not properly insulated can allow heat to escape.  Melting of the snow/ice will ensue (in our case from this storm, up to 3 feet of snow in some areas!!!) thus creating an avalanche of destruction on the foundation and plants below.  In some cases, it will bring the gutters with it!!  Additionally, trying to shovel the snow off your plants will only make it worse. Properly insulating your home not only saves you on your direct energy cost but will avoid potential subsequent repair cost and is the MOST COST EFFECTIVE amendment you can make to your home at this time!

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Chicken Gardening – Sustainable Landscapes

What better way to ensure that you have fresh, organic eggs than to have your own hen house?  Today’s site development plans are no longer limited to vegetable and herb gardens, berry cages and compost bins; they include ‘designs’ for a family run hen-house. Yesterday’s hobby of water gardening is today’s producing chicken garden. As a child growing up on a few acres, my father raised 45 chickens, several ducks and honey bees, seemingly to help sustain our family of 11.  I’m sure, though, he enjoyed the challenge, variety and fun of this endeavor.  He even grew mushrooms in our cellar!   These practices have come full circle as families, again, try to sustain from within. It’s more than a personal interest;  reducing reliance on mass produced eggs and chickens reduces the waste run-off into critical waterways, eliminates the energy and fuel consumption necessary to transport and refrigerate, and sends a message about the cruel conditions that mass produced chickens are raised under. Hen house ‘designs’ can be stylish and fun but keep in mind that this is not a weekend hobby. They must include security, shade, nesting areas, feeding areas, ventilation, protection from storms and weather, lighting, access and adjoining (or close-by)…

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Earth Day 2010

Happy Earth Day from Petro Design Build Inc. Branch out and celebrate Earth Day this Thursday!  April 22, 2010 marks the 40th anniversary.  Events, lectures, etc. will be taking place through the weekend in celebration.  We've listed a few below around the metro area we think would be great opportunities to "branch out". Thursday, April 22 2nd Annual Green Drinks for the Bay: 5:30pm, Severn Inn, 1993 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd., Annapolis AIA Spring Lecture Series: Jerry van Eyck, Narration of Urban Settings through Integral Landscapes, 6pm Brown Center, MICA, Baltimore Historic Sherwood Gardens is in full bloom with 80,000 tulips!  Absolutely breathtaking, a must see if you are in the Baltimore area. Chesapeak Ecology Center:  Volunteer Needed,  Orientation: 1-3pm, Chesapeake Ecology Center, 245 Clay St., Annapolis Saturday, April 24th Earth Day and Family, Music & Kite Festival: 10-3pm, Quiet Waters Park, 600 Quiet Waters Road, Annapolis 16th Annual Sierra Club "Earth Day" 5k: 8:30am Quiet Waters Park, Annapolis Sunday, April 25th MD House and Garden Pilgrimage: Tour Historic Guilford in Baltimore City, home of Sherwood Gardens St. Georges Day: PG Historical Society with gather at Trinity Episcopal Church in Upper Marlboro to celebrate the 314th anniversary of the establishment of Prince George's County. Earth…

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