Plant big diciduous tres for fall foliage color and natural air conditioning

By Robert Gillmore

Drive around New England in the autumn and you’re overwhelmed by this fact: If even the meanest homestead has just one or two large sugar maple trees, its landscape will be almost saturated with stunning orange-red foliage. For just a few miraculous weeks each year, it will have—thanks to nothing but the benevolence of nature—a surpassingly beautiful garden, more splendid than almost any other landscape I know.
Big deciduous trees with brilliant fall foliage do exactly what annual and perennial flowers do: create big bursts of color. But they do it automatically, with almost no effort on your part. One of gardening's most beneficent paradoxes is that the crowns of large deciduous trees, which require no care but annual leaf raking, can create masses of color that are many times larger than even the most earnestly tended flower beds.
And there’s more:
► In the winter, the arching bare branches of big deciduous trees are striking natural sculpture.
► Large deciduous trees can also shade, and therefore help cool your house, in warm weather, thereby saving you hundreds of dollars in long-term air-conditioning or other cooling costs. The dense foliage of maples, oaks and beeches creates the heaviest shade.
► But because deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall, they don’t shade your house in cold weather. On the contrary, they allow sunlight to help heat it, thereby saving you hundreds of dollars of long-term heating costs.
► Deciduous trees also help cool your property by transpiring water vapor through their leaves—but only in warm weather, when the trees are in leaf and the cooling is welcome.
Deciduous trees, in other words, are both natural thermostats and natural brakes against global warming: By automatically providing free heating and cooling, they reduce the need to burn greenhouse-gas fuels.
Sun shines on your house from the east in the morning, the south at midday and the west in the afternoon. To block summer sun, plant deciduous trees on the east, south and west sides of your home—but especially the south and west, because the sun shines there in the warmest parts of the day, when shade is needed most.
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The most valuable large ornamental deciduous trees are probably maples. That’s because their fall color is spectacular, and their dense foliage makes them excellent sun blockers.
Named for its tiny red spring flowers and brilliant scarlet autumn foliage, red maple (Acer rubrum) is hardy to Zone 3 (average minimum temperature: -40 degrees Fahrenheit), so it can grow in any region of New Hampshire. The cultivar ‘October Glory’ holds its crimson foliage for weeks after other maples have lost their leaves. ‘Armstrong’ creates still more color with its beautiful silver-gray bark.
Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) doesn’t grow as fast as red maple, and its fall foliage is sometimes the more common yellow, instead of the showier red or orange. But sugar maples have an impressive signature shape: short, massive trunks and short, stout branches that form immense oval crowns. They’re hardy to Zone 4 (average minimum temperature: -30 degrees Fahrenheit), so they can grow in almost any region of New Hampshire except far-northern Coos County.
Most oaks aren't as colorful as maples. But several species produce rich red fall foliage, and oak leaves tend to linger until winter, so they provide welcome late-season color.
The stately red oak (Quercus rubrum) is named for its maroon red foliage. Pin oak (Quercus palustris) produces bronze or scarlet autumn leaves. The handsome, spreading (but slow-growing) white oak (Quercus alba) sports purplish red fall foliage. Red oak is hardy to Zone 3; pin oak and white oak, to Zone 4.
American beech (Fagus grandifolia) is slow growing and its fall foliage is golden brown, not red or orange. But its leaves persist into the winter; its smooth bark is a lovely gray; older trees develop handsome, gnarled, bulging trunks; and it’s hardy to Zone 4 (possibly even Zone 3).
Much more colorful are cultivars of European beech (Fagus sylvatica), which sport various shades of purple foliage. Many of them gradually turn greener or browner over the summer, but ‘Riversii’ (also called ‘Atropunicea’ and ‘Purpurea’) and ‘Spaethiana’ (or ‘Spathiana’) tend to hold their deep purple or red-purple color all summer long. European beech is probably less cold-tolerant than American beech, but it’s still considered hardy to Zone 4.
Northern catalpa bean tree (Catalpa speciosa) is valued less for its bright yellow fall foliage than for its immense tropical-looking heart-shaped leaves; its two-inch-wide, trumpet-shaped white spring flowers; and its decorative ten- to 20-inch-long seed pods that dangle from the tree after its leaves drop, a bit like giant string beans. It’s hardy to Zone 4.
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With deciduous trees, size matters. Bigger is better. The older, and therefore more massive they are, the more shade they cast, the bigger their splash of foliage or flower color, and the more impressive their sculpture: that is, the thicker their trunks, the richer their bark texture, the larger their root flare, and the longer and thicker their branch structure. If you don’t already have some in your yard, plant some now.
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Next time I’ll explain how needle evergreen trees can provide accents, privacy and year-round foliage color.

Robert Gillmore is a landscape designer and author of The Woodland Garden and Beauty All Around You: How to Create Large Lush Low-Maintenance Gardens, Even on Small Lots and Small Budgets. Evergreen, his one-acre woodland garden in Goffstown, open to the public, without charge, each spring, when its 220 Catawba rhododendrons are at or near peak bloom. For more information e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 603-497-8020.

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Gas fireplaces and heating systems provide classic comfort and convenience (1072)

Whether it's an open fire or today's contemporary styles, fireplaces have always held a cozy touch of magic.

With today's dropping fuel prices, we are seeing more homeowners select the comfort and convenience of gas fireplaces, inserts and stoves. No more lugging wood. Just flip a switch and cuddle up to the fire for warmth and enjoyment.

With installation that works in almost any setting and vast options from traditional classic look to the modern linear styles, gas fireplaces offer options to fit any home design and decor. In the past, a gas fireplace was more for aesthetics than actual heating but with today's models we are seeing high efficiency and high BTU options that can even duct heat into multiple areas providing warmth to an entire home.

With so many options, it's important to know what to look for so you make the right selection for your needs and desires. First, you need to look at the three types of gas hearth appliances to see which one works best for you and your home.

If you have an existing drafty, inefficient masonry fireplace, then the fireplace insert may be just what you are looking for. The fireplace insert will transform your fireplace into a convenient and efficient heat source while using your existing space. At Fire N' Stone, we can also give your fireplace a facelift providing new stone or brick facing to freshen up that old look to go with your new insert.

A freestanding stove is a great option if you have an existing hearth or if you are short on space. These can be placed almost anywhere within the home and do not require a chimney as they can easily be vented to the outside.

The factory-built or zero-clearance fireplace has become the most popular option. Whether it's new construction or the fireplace you always dreamed of in your home, this option offers a variety of styles to fit the classic or modern look to fit any vision. Classic or contemporary, a fireplace creates cozy ambience and a striking focal point in any room. Whether it's a stone finish or fitting a recess above the mantel for a flat screen TV, Fire N' Stone offers complete fireplace design and frame to finish work to make your hearth dream a reality.

Once you have decided on the type of gas fire that fits your home, then you should look at the heat output to fit your heating needs. Fire N' Stone's hearth specialists can assist you with this based on your home design and desired heating capabilities.

Once you have chosen your new fireplace, comes the installation. This is a very important part of the process as it is vital to your safety and the proper operation of your new fireplace. The state of New Hampshire requires that anyone installing or servicing gas hearth appliances holds a New Hampshire state gas license. In addition to this, all manufacturers recommend that your installer is certified through the National Fireplace Institute This ensures they have been properly trained specifically in gas hearth appliances installation and operation. This is not only to perform the gas connection but for all aspects of the installation such as placement and venting as any and all phases of the process will require a gas permit from your town showing all parties are licensed in gas through the state of New Hampshire. An installer or builder cannot place the fireplace or vent the unit and simply bypass the requirements because they are not connecting the gas. NO STATE GAS LICENSE MEANS THEY CANNOT TAKE PART IN ANY PHASE OF INSTALLATION OR SERVICING. If your installer or service technician does not hold a New Hampshire state gas license they are placing your home and family in danger and should be reported to the State Fire Marshall. At Fire N' Stone, we hold the proper licensing and certifications to take care of all your gas fireplaces needs.

Last, but certainly not least, is the servicing of your fireplace. All manufacturers recommend yearly servicing to help prevent failures and maintain the beauty and efficiency of your new fireplace. We highly recommend that the service is performed in spring. As stated above, the servicing requires a New Hampshire state gas license and manufacturers recommend that the technician is certified through the National Fireplace Institute to ensure they have been trained in the proper installation and operation of gas hearth appliances. Being certified through the National Fireplace Institute is vital for performing your service or installation as gas hearth appliances are a specialty area and much different from other appliances that HVAC gas fitters work with. To ensure your safety and the proper operation of your fireplace you can go to the National Fireplace Institute online at www.NFIcertified.org and locate a gas fireplace specialist in your area.

At Fire N' Stone we also offer complete chimney services and repairs and would like to remind you that if you are using a gas fired boiler or furnace that proper maintenance should be performed annually on your appliance by licensed technicians such as those at Foley Oil and Propane as well as on your chimney by certified and licensed professionals such as Fire N' Stone. Please note that when your gas boiler or furnace requires a new lining system to be installed that the chimney professionals must hold a New Hampshire state gas license to perform the work and it is recommended that they are certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America. If they do not hold the required gas license then they should not performing the work as they are endangering your home and family and we encourage you to report them to the State Fire Marshall.

With gas fireplaces on the rise Fire N' Stone is here to take you through all steps from start to finish to ensure that your new fireplace is everything you dreamed of and will keep you warm and cozy for many years. We encourage you to visit our showroom conveniently located on Route 3 in Tilton to view our numerous fireplace displays and finish work and let us show you how we can make your hearth and stone dreams a reality.

Without soil, we have nothing

By the Belknap County Conservation District

Soil is the foundation of our very lives; a healthy life is not possible without soil. Take a minute to look around and see if there is anything in our New Hampshire surroundings that is not somehow dependent on soil in order to exist. Our food is grown in soil, our homes and most furniture are built from trees grown in soil, and many of the products we use are derivative of soil... and the list goes on. Our soil is made of about 45 percent minerals from rock particles (sand, silt, and clay), 25 percent water, 25 percent air, and 5 percent organic matter (roots, decaying plants, etc). Did you know there are more organisms living in one teaspoon of soil than there are people living on the whole planet? These organisms (bacteria, fungi, worms and more!) are responsible for the growth of healthy plants and all the benefits we gain from those plants. Soil itself can be healthy or unhealthy. A healthy soil is one that has that has a balance of minerals, water, organic matter, and is loose enough to allow spaces for water movement and air in sufficient quantities to support microbes; if you have microbes the rest of the subsurface cast of characters (worms, insects, and more) will follow. Healthy soils not only grow healthy plants! Mary O'Brien, an oncologist in England, and researcher Dr. Chris Lowry discovered that just smelling healthy soil rich in organics and micro-organisms can boost our immune systems, improve memory, and brighten our mood.

By now you may be wondering whether the soil on your property is healthy or not. Some indicators of healthy soil are whether the soil has plenty of visible animal and plant life below the surface, a darker colored soil usually has more organic matter, existing plants roots are well spread out, and the soil feels somewhat loose and can be easily manipulated. One way to have your soil scientifically tested is to contact the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension for instruction on how to take a sample of your soil and mail it to them; there is fee for the test. They will send you a report of their findings and recommendations for improving your soil if necessary. To access information on soil testing visit website http://extension.unh.edu or call 603-527-5475.

Organic gardening and yard care (growing without herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers) is becoming more mainstream in the United States. Although not fully understood or embraced by everyone, there is evidence that organic methods support and encourage beneficial microbial growth and can be less expensive than methods calling for heavy use of fertilizers and other manufactured chemicals. A commonly used practice of organic yard care is that of composting kitchen and yard waste to be used as a fertilizer. Each pound of organic matter in soil can hold up to 20 pounds of water and has been proven to reduce the need for watering by hose even during the hot summer. It is important to remember that overuse of even a good thing like compost can be harmful to the environment. Compost not used by plants may end up leaching or running off into our lakes, ponds, and streams where it will fertilize aquatic plants like algae that help deplete oxygen needed by underwater life. When in doubt, test your soil!

There are many ways to practice 'do-it-yourself' composting. They range from forming piles of debris and letting them decompose on their own to building or buying compartmented structures to allow for managed decomposition. The most basic rule of any method is that you are providing a home for beneficial microbes and encouraging them to grow through proper feeding and watering. A visit to your local library, garden center, or on-line search will give you all the information you need to start composting at home. Less common, but also yielding a nutrient rich additive for soil, is composting indoors using red worms (a.k.a. vermicomposting). This type of composting can provide a nice alternative to trying to keep a compost pile going during winter.

Not all soil is created equal. So far we've only been considering 'healthy vs. unhealthy' soil. One of the foundations of soil is eroded rock. The type of rock, and the particles resulting from erosion (caused by wind, rain, ice, heat, fast moving water, etc.) have a dramatic effect on the resulting soil and how useful it is for us in growing our food, as a building site, as an ingredient in manufactured products, or in being able absorb rain or snowmelt thereby preventing flooding. There are so many different soils that scientists have identified them by 'soil types'. To learn more about the soil types where you live visit the Web Soil Survey website http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/ or call the Belknap County Conservation District at 603-527-5880.

04-10 Sawyers Meadows

Exposing 'healthy soil' is like ringing a dinner bell for hungry birds who come to feed on the many insects and worms supported by a soil rich in life, as seen here in Sawyers Meadows, Gilford. (Courtesy Photo)

Installing an Irrigation System in an Established Lawn

Does your lawn start off green in the spring time, only to turn brown by the Fourth of July? Does it take hours of standing in one place with the hose or moving the sprinkler around to keep your lawn and gardens looking healthy? Perhaps your lawn looks "good enough" because you are afraid of damaging it with the installation of an in-ground sprinkler system. You can't possibly install a sprinkler system without undoing all those long hours of hard work, can you?
You can! With the proper equipment and care an in ground sprinkler system can be installed without making a mess of your existing lawn. Follow these steps for a seamless installation.
1. Failure to plan is planning to fail (tired but true): The first step to a neat installation is adequate planning. Where is the water source located and where will valve boxes be placed? These are two of the first questions that should be asked. Locate problem areas, such as large surface roots and ledge. Be sure to mark with flags where heads will be placed and take into account where future changes may occur to your landscape. Doing all of these things will eliminate costly mistakes and significantly reduce hand digging which leads to blemishes on your landscape.
2. Use a trenchless Ditch Witch: Be sure that you or your contractor is using the proper equipment to pull your irrigation lines. A Ditch Witch that pulls pipe below the surface, instead of digging a trench, will significantly reduce the damage to your lawn. After the pipe is installed, a small surface ridge will be noticeable but it can easily be flattened out with the help of the tires of the machine. Be sure that a Ditch Witch with tires is used, instead of a tracked machine, which can cause much more damage.
3. Precision placement of pipes: Placing pipes as closely as possible to flags that are marking where heads will be installed will significantly cut down on hand digging. An experienced operator can help with this.
4. Use a tarp or bucket: To install the sprinkler heads and valves boxes some hand digging will be required. Use a bucket or a tarp to stockpile excavated dirt. This will preserve topsoil and keep rocks out of your lawn.
5. Clean-up: Picking up the job site at the end of each day will ensure a neat finished product. This includes picking up debris and raking areas where digging may have taken place.
6. Seed and fertilize: Give your new lawn a quick jump start. Over seeding and the application of a slow release fertilize will help your lawn to quickly thrive thanks to the installation of your new sprinkler system.
Considering the installation of an irrigation system this summer? Follow these steps to preserve your existing lawn.

John Lahey, Owner of Winnipesaukee Irrigation

Retrofitting Aging Irrigation Systems for Watering Efficiency

The first in-ground lawn sprinkler systems were installed in the Lakes Region in the 1980s and '90s. These aging systems, once considered state-of-the art, are not nearly as efficient as the systems designed and installed today. If your irrigation system is five or more years old, it might be time for a retrofit. A system retrofit might be necessary due to changes in your landscape, advances in new technology or you may be looking for an opportunity to conserve water. A few simple steps can be taken to upgrade your existing system, without tearing up the entire lawn.
1. Upgrade or replace existing sprinkler heads. One of the quickest and most affordable ways to improve the efficiency of you irrigation system is to replace the nozzles in your sprinkler heads. Today's nozzles can use up to 30 percent less water than their aging ancestors. New nozzles utilize matched precipitation rates and deliver a water stream at a rate at which the ground can absorb. This eliminates runoff and evaporation. If the sprinkler heads are too old, and are not compatible with new nozzles, than the entire head can be replaced with a new, more efficient model.

2. Install a smart controller. A smart controller offers far more options than the simple rotary timer. A smart controller, such as the Pro Ex 2.0, can be programmed to fit your landscape's unique needs. Factors such soil type, plant type and weather conditions are all monitored. These controllers also have the ability to sense leaks and shut down the system and can even be synced with your wireless internet for remote monitoring.

3. Upgrade plant beds to drip irrigation. Drip irrigation is a great way to conserve water by reducing water usage up to 30 to 60 percent. Drip irrigation eliminates many of the issues associated with overhead watering, such as over spraying, wind and evaporation. It also allows water to be delivered directly to the root zone, which avoids watering areas where plants are not.
If you are interested in retrofitting your irrigation system for any of the reasons stated in this article, find an irrigation contractor that can perform an audit of your system.

John Lahey, Owner of Winnipesaukee Irrigation