Monthly Archives: December 2015

Budget Kitchen Remodeling: 5 Money-Saving Steps

Major kitchen remodels are among the most popular home improvements, but a revamped cooking and gathering space can set you back a pretty penny. According to the “2015 Remodeling Impact Report” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, a complete renovation of a 210-square-foot kitchen has a national median cost of $60,000, and you’ll recover 67% of that cost come selling time.

kitchen remodel after

Despite the big price tag, you’ll be glad you upgraded. In fact, homeowners polled for the “Report” gave their kitchen redo a Joy Score of 9.8 — a rating based on those who said they were happy or satisfied with their remodeling, with 10 being the highest rating and 1 the lowest.

If you can’t afford the entire remodel all at once, complete the work in these five budget-saving stages.

Stage One: Start with a Complete Design Plan

Your plan should be comprehensive and detailed — everything from the location of the refrigerator to which direction the cabinet doors will open to whether you need a spice drawer.

kitchen blueprint

To save time (and money) during tear-out and construction, plan on using your existing walls and kitchen configuration. That’ll keep plumbing and electrical systems mostly intact, and you won’t have the added expense — and mess — of tearing out walls.

You may want to consider hiring a professional designer, such as an architect or a certified kitchen designer, who can make sure the details of your plans are complete. You’ll pay about 10% of the total project for a pro designer, but you’ll save a whole bunch of headaches that would likely cost as much — or more — to fix. Plus, a pro is likely to offer smart solutions you hadn’t thought of.

For a nominal fee, you also can get design help from a major home improvement store. However, you’ll be expected to purchase some of your cabinets and appliances from that store.

  • Cost: professional designer: $5,800 (10% of total)
  • Key strategies: Once your plans are set, you can hold onto them until you’re ready to remodel.
  • Time frame: 3 to 6 months

Stage Two: Order the Cabinets, Appliances, and Lighting Fixtures

Cabinets and appliances are the biggest investments in your kitchen remodeling project. If you’re remodeling in stages, you can order them any time after the plans are complete and store them in a garage (away from moisture) or in a spare room until you’re ready to pull the trigger on the installation.

kitchen catalog

Remember that it may take four to six weeks from the day you order them for your cabinets to be delivered.

If you can’t afford all new appliances, keep your old ones for now — but plan to buy either the same sizes, or choose larger sizes and design your cabinets around those larger measurements. You can replace appliances as budget permits later on.

The same goes for your lighting fixtures: If you can live with your old ones for now, you’ll save money by reusing them.

You’ll have to decide about flooring, too — one of the trickier decisions to make because it also affects how and when you install cabinets.

You’ll need to know if your old flooring runs underneath your cabinets, or if the flooring butts up against the cabinet sides and toe kicks. If the flooring runs underneath, you’ll have some leeway for new cabinet configurations — just be sure the old flooring will cover any newly exposed floor areas. Here are points to remember:

  • Keep old flooring for cost savings. This works if your new cabinets match your old layout, so that the new cabinets fit exactly into the old flooring configuration. If the existing flooring runs underneath your cabinets and covers all flooring area, then any new cabinet configuration will be fine.
  • Keep your old flooring for now and cover it or replace it later. Again, this works if your cabinet configuration is identical to the old layout.

However, if you plan to cover your old flooring or tear it out and replace it at some point in the future, remember that your new flooring might raise the height of your floor, effectively lowering your cabinet height.

For thin new floor coverings, such as vinyl and linoleum, the change is imperceptible. For thicker floorings, such as wood and tile, you might want to take into account the change in floor height by installing your new cabinets on shims.

  • Cost: cabinets: $16,000 (27% of total); appliances and lighting fixtures: $8,500 (15% of total); vinyl flooring: $1,000 (2% of total)
  • Key strategy: Keep old appliances, lighting fixtures, and flooring and use them until you can afford new ones.
  • Time frame: 2 to 3 weeks

Stage Three: Gut the Kitchen and Do the Electrical and Plumbing Work

Here’s where the remodel gets messy. Old cabinetry and appliances are removed, and walls may have to be opened up for new electrical circuits. Keep in close contact with your contractor during this stage so you can answer questions and clear up any problems quickly. A major kitchen remodel can take six to 10 weeks, depending on how extensive the project is.

gutted kitchen

During this stage, haul your refrigerator, microwave, and toaster oven to another room — near the laundry or the garage, for example — so you’ve got the means to cook meals. Feinberg suggests tackling this stage in the summer, when you can easily grill and eat outside. That’ll reduce the temptation to eat at restaurants, and will help keep your day-to-day costs under control.

  • Cost: $14,500 for tear-out and installation of new plumbing and electrical (25% of total)
  • Key strategies: Encourage your contractor to expedite the tear-out and installation of new systems. Plan a makeshift kitchen while the work is progressing. Schedule this work for summer when you can grill and eat outside.
  • Time frame: 6 to 10 weeks

Stage Four: Install Cabinets, Countertops, Appliances, Flooring, and Fixtures

If you’ve done your homework and bought key components in advance, you should roll through this phase. You’ve now got a (mostly) finished kitchen.

kitchen installation

A high-end countertop and backsplash can be a sizable sum of money. If you can’t quite swing it, put down a temporary top, such as painted marine plywood or inexpensivelaminate. Later, you can upgrade to granite, tile, solid surface, or marble.

  • Cost: $12,000 (21% of total)
  • Key strategy: Install an inexpensive countertop; upgrade when you’re able.
  • Time frame: 1 to 2 weeks

Final Phases: Upgrade if Necessary

Replace the inexpensive countertop, pull up the laminate flooring, and put in tile or hardwood, or buy that new refrigerator you wanted but couldn’t afford during the remodel. (Just make sure it fits in the space!)

Wine Down Wednesday – Chicken Enchilada Rice Casserole

Wine Down Wednesday Logo New
Mexican food never fails to make me happy, and this enchilada casserole is no different!  I mean, how could anything with this much cheese not taste amazing?  Requiring only 20 minutes of active preparation, it’s a breeze to make, and the 30 minute wait in the oven is totally worth it.  You’ll understand what I mean the moment you pull this bubbly beauty out of the oven.  Pair it with a Chardonnay and enjoy!
Note:  This recipe will serve 12.  I made the whole recipe and had leftovers the next day.  The recipe can easily be halved, but you’ll probably regret doing that when you run out!
chicken enchilada rice casseroleINGREDIENTS
  • 3 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
  • 2 cups dry Basmati rice
  • 2 cans (10 oz each) Enchilada sauce
  • 1 can (16 oz) refried beans
  • 1 cup white cheddar, shredded
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 can (11 oz) corn kernel, drained
  • cilantro for garnish
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Cook the rice.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
  3. Mix the 2 cheeses together.
  4. In a large bowl mix the shredded chicken with the enchilada sauce, refried beans and half of the cheese. Add rice, season with salt and pepper if needed, and mix well. Pour rice mixture into a large casserole dish. Top with corn then with remainder of cheese.
  5. Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes or until cheese melts and is bubbly.
  6. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve warm.

Tech Tuesday – Apple Beats Android at Parental Controls

Tech Tuesday Logoparental controlsChildren who were on the nice list this year may have unwrapped smartphones as holiday gifts. But parents may be wary of the naughty things that children can do with the devices — and with good reason.  Kids are becoming more and more tech savvy, which, in some cases, can get them into trouble.  The increasing popularity of vault apps is a prime example.  Vault apps are apps that masquerade as inconspicuous utility apps but are actually used for secret messaging or data storage.  Another culprit is “freemium” apps; these are usually games which are free to download but but come with their own mini stores to purchase additional content.  If your account is associated with your kid’s smartphone or tablet, you may start to see several small charges to your credit card.

You want your children (and wallet) to be safe, so what could you possibly do to ensure that they are?  Luckily, there are ways to restrict what your children can access on their devices; unfortunately, the extent to which you can restrict actually depends on whether you’re using Apple or Android devices.  As it turns out, Apple offers a multitude of options for parental controls on their devices.  Android, by contrast, is lagging in this regard.

The heart of the iPhone’s parental controls is a feature called Family Sharing. Setting it up involves designating a parent’s iTunes account as the primary credit card holder. The parent can invite multiple Apple accounts to join the group, letting family members make purchases from the same credit card and share content purchases with one another. In other words, if you buy an app on one phone, other members of the family can also use that app without having to pay for it again.

family sharing

Setting up Family Sharing on your multiple Apple devices requires only a short amount of time commitment, but from then on, it’s smooth sailing.

A key part of Family Sharing is a feature called Ask to Buy. With the feature enabled, whenever a child tries to download an app or make a purchase inside an app, the parent’s iPhone receives a notification and a detailed description of the content. The parent can then choose to allow or deny the purchase.  The feature should come in handy for parents who don’t want their children to rack up hefty credit card bills with in-app purchases. It should also help parents who are concerned about so-called vault apps and want to vet the apps their children are downloading.

ask to buy

Inside the iPhone’s settings app, there is also a setting called Restrictions. It’s basically a switchboard full of features you can enable or disable on an iPhone. On a child’s iPhone, you can restrict the Safari browser from loading websites with adult content. For parents who occasionally hand over their own phone to a child to play a game, you can create a restriction on your phone that disables the ability to delete apps to minimize the risk of losing important content.

Another common headache for parents: Children who unwittingly burn through the data on a phone plan by constantly streaming video or music over a cellular connection. In the iPhone’s settings, you can disable apps like Netflix or Apple Music from using cellular content. Then in the iPhone’s restriction settings, you can block the ability to re-enable cellular data use for those apps.

restrictions

The Android system, on the other hand, could only accomplish a few family-related tasks, and in imperfect ways: It could restrict children from downloading apps and other content at certain maturity levels, and it also was able to partly prevent a child from downloading in-app content by requiring authentication, like a password, for making purchases.

Android lacks features for blocking adult content inside web browsers or vetting vault apps. There are some limited solutions: Google’s search engine can be set up with a feature called SafeSearch to prevent web searches for adult content. Some apps, like YouTube, can also be configured to filter out inappropriate content.

Similarly, the system also lacks the ability to disable cellular data use for certain apps, though one restriction in YouTube lets you stream high-definition video only over a Wi-Fi connection. Still, that won’t do much to prevent a child from using all your cell data.

applockAndroid users can also download third-party apps to help prevent certain activities. The app AppLock, for instance, can be used to lock down any app that a parent suspects to be a vault app with a PIN code. Another piece of software called PhoneSheriff can be used to monitor and block activities on multiple cellphones; it costs a hefty $90.

Over all, the lack of built-in restrictions for Android suggested that parental controls are an afterthought for Google.

The most likely reason Google lagged Apple on parental controls is because of the open-source nature of Android. Google lets device manufacturers install Android on their phones and customize the system to their liking, like adding their own parental control settings.

Though Apple’s childproofing solutions are thorough, technology alone cannot solve all our problems. In addition to using phone restrictions, it would be wise for parents to have a conversation with their children about what is right and wrong, and to help them earn privileges to different features when they prove they understand.  Children are going to need to be able to independently manage their own time and make the right choices, and constantly being the Internet police may not be very conducive.

The Top 3 Rules for Tree Care

WHEN dry weather continues for an extended period, landscape trees depend on homeowners for water. Millions of urban and landscape trees alike are lost due to drought, so it’s important to take care of surviving trees and nurture replacement trees with proper watering.

The amount of water a tree needs depends on many factors, including the age and species of the tree, the time of year, weather and soil type. As a rule, newly planted and young trees require more frequent watering than older, well-established trees. But during extended periods of drought, all trees benefit from supplemental watering.

During periods of drought, the goal is to provide just enough supplemental irrigation to maximize growth on young trees and to keep older, established trees healthy. We don’t want to water so much or so often that we encourage more canopy growth than the soil, climate and tree species can support during normal rainfall years. Excessive watering can make a tree dependent on irrigation rather than resilient enough to survive on what nature normally provides.

Watering Newly Planted Trees

Newly planted treeFor the first several months after planting, most of the tree’s roots are still within the original root ball.

For the first several months after planting, most of a tree’s roots are still within the original root ball, with some roots beginning to grow beyond this area. The root ball and the surrounding soil should be kept evenly moist to encourage healthy root growth. After a few months, expand the watering zone to cover the entire area under the canopy. It can take two or more growing seasons for a tree to become established — for roots to venture into the soil well beyond the planting hole. It’s vital to provide supplemental moisture in those early years, if nature doesn’t provide regular soaking rains. During hot, dry weather, new trees may require water as often as three times per week to ensure that the root ball doesn’t dry out.

Watering Established Trees

Established treesOnce a tree is established, apply water in a wide band around the outer reaches of the tree’s canopy, called the dripline.

It’s a common misconception that a tree’s roots are a mirror image of the aboveground canopy. In reality, an established tree’s roots usually extend well beyond the edge of the canopy, or drip line. Although some anchor roots may reach deep into the soil, most tree roots are concentrated in the upper 12″ to 18″ of soil. When watering established trees, provide a deep, soaking irrigation to the entire area beneath the tree canopy and extending several feet beyond the drip line. Ideally, you should moisten the soil to a depth of 10″ each time you water. To prevent rot, don’t apply water to the area directly around the trunk.

Know When to Water

The easiest way to check soil moisture is to take a long (8″-plus) screwdriver and poke it into the soil. It will pass easily into moist soil, but be difficult to push into dry soil. If you can’t poke it in at least 6″, it’s time to water. This technique works best in clay and loam soils.

How to Apply Water

Overhead sprinklers are the easiest way to cover large expanses, but they’re inefficient, losing up to half the water to evaporation. Trees are better served by watering methods that apply water slowly, right at soil level. It may take several hours to properly water a single mature tree.

Soaker hoseA soaker hose applies water slowly so it soaks in rather than running off.

Soaker hoses are an efficient way to water trees because they’re porous and release water slowly. Encircle a tree with a spiral of soaker hose and run it for an hour or more — as long as it takes for water to penetrate 6″ or 8″, using the screwdriver test.

A pressure regulator improves the efficiency and prolongs the life of soaker hoses.

Bubblers are hose-end devices that reduce the velocity of the water, so it soaks in rather than running off. Because it waters one spot at a time, you’ll need to move the bubbler around.

If possible, avoid watering during the hottest part of the day — 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. — to conserve water.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much water does my tree need?
As a general rule of thumb, apply an inch of sprinkler irrigation or enough water to moisten the soil to a depth of 10″ or more for mature trees. A common mistake is to apply frequent shallow waterings that don’t soak deeply into the soil.

My irrigation system waters my lawn regularly. Isn’t that enough for my trees?
Probably not. Most irrigation systems are programmed to apply frequent, shallow waterings. Trees do better with less frequent but deeper soakings — a heavy soaking once a week is much better than a shallow watering every few days. That’s because shallow waterings encourage tree roots to remain near the soil surface where they’re prone to drying out. Watering deeply, on the other hand, encourages deep, drought-tolerant roots.

Should I mulch under my trees?
Yes. Grass growing under trees will intercept much of the water you apply, keeping it from reaching plant roots. It’s best to keep a large (3′ plus), turf-free circle around the trunk. A 2″ to 3″ layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark or pine straw, helps conserve moisture and keeps weeds at bay. To prevent rot, don’t pile mulch against the trunk.

Should I fertilize during a drought?
As a rule, drought-stressed trees should not be fertilized. When water supplies are limited, trees naturally slow their growth. Applying fertilizer can encourage a flush of growth that causes the tree to require more water than is available. And the salts in many fertilizers can harm drought-stressed roots.

Is the technique the same for those of us living in desert climates?
In desert conditions irrigation should soak the soil at least 3′ deep. In areas with such salty water and salty soil, deep watering helps by leaching salts past the root zone. Salt burn is very common, especially with non-native trees. Deep irrigation also encourages roots to grow deeply, as opposed to frequent light watering which leads to shallow roots that are more vulnerable to drying out.

Take Steps to Minimize Tree Stress During Drought

  • Avoid digging under and around trees so you don’t disturb the roots
  • Don’t do any heavy pruning. However, it’s OK to remove broken, dead, insect-infested or diseased branches.
  • Keep an eye out for insect pests and disease, because drought-stressed trees are more vulnerable to attack.
  • Avoid using high-nitrogen lawn fertilizers under trees, and never use weed-and-feed products, which can harm tree roots.

Watering Restrictions

Even if your municipality imposes watering restrictions, it’s likely you’ll be able to properly water trees. If you must choose between turf and trees, remember that trees are a bigger investment. And it will take years, if not decades, for a newly planted tree to take the place of a mature tree that has been lost to drought.

Monthly Archives: December 2015

Budget Kitchen Remodeling: 5 Money-Saving Steps

Major kitchen remodels are among the most popular home improvements, but a revamped cooking and gathering space can set you back a pretty penny. According to the “2015 Remodeling Impact Report” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, a complete renovation of a 210-square-foot kitchen has a national median cost of $60,000, and you’ll recover 67% of that cost come selling time.

kitchen remodel after

Despite the big price tag, you’ll be glad you upgraded. In fact, homeowners polled for the “Report” gave their kitchen redo a Joy Score of 9.8 — a rating based on those who said they were happy or satisfied with their remodeling, with 10 being the highest rating and 1 the lowest.

If you can’t afford the entire remodel all at once, complete the work in these five budget-saving stages.

Stage One: Start with a Complete Design Plan

Your plan should be comprehensive and detailed — everything from the location of the refrigerator to which direction the cabinet doors will open to whether you need a spice drawer.

kitchen blueprint

To save time (and money) during tear-out and construction, plan on using your existing walls and kitchen configuration. That’ll keep plumbing and electrical systems mostly intact, and you won’t have the added expense — and mess — of tearing out walls.

You may want to consider hiring a professional designer, such as an architect or a certified kitchen designer, who can make sure the details of your plans are complete. You’ll pay about 10% of the total project for a pro designer, but you’ll save a whole bunch of headaches that would likely cost as much — or more — to fix. Plus, a pro is likely to offer smart solutions you hadn’t thought of.

For a nominal fee, you also can get design help from a major home improvement store. However, you’ll be expected to purchase some of your cabinets and appliances from that store.

  • Cost: professional designer: $5,800 (10% of total)
  • Key strategies: Once your plans are set, you can hold onto them until you’re ready to remodel.
  • Time frame: 3 to 6 months

Stage Two: Order the Cabinets, Appliances, and Lighting Fixtures

Cabinets and appliances are the biggest investments in your kitchen remodeling project. If you’re remodeling in stages, you can order them any time after the plans are complete and store them in a garage (away from moisture) or in a spare room until you’re ready to pull the trigger on the installation.

kitchen catalog

Remember that it may take four to six weeks from the day you order them for your cabinets to be delivered.

If you can’t afford all new appliances, keep your old ones for now — but plan to buy either the same sizes, or choose larger sizes and design your cabinets around those larger measurements. You can replace appliances as budget permits later on.

The same goes for your lighting fixtures: If you can live with your old ones for now, you’ll save money by reusing them.

You’ll have to decide about flooring, too — one of the trickier decisions to make because it also affects how and when you install cabinets.

You’ll need to know if your old flooring runs underneath your cabinets, or if the flooring butts up against the cabinet sides and toe kicks. If the flooring runs underneath, you’ll have some leeway for new cabinet configurations — just be sure the old flooring will cover any newly exposed floor areas. Here are points to remember:

  • Keep old flooring for cost savings. This works if your new cabinets match your old layout, so that the new cabinets fit exactly into the old flooring configuration. If the existing flooring runs underneath your cabinets and covers all flooring area, then any new cabinet configuration will be fine.
  • Keep your old flooring for now and cover it or replace it later. Again, this works if your cabinet configuration is identical to the old layout.

However, if you plan to cover your old flooring or tear it out and replace it at some point in the future, remember that your new flooring might raise the height of your floor, effectively lowering your cabinet height.

For thin new floor coverings, such as vinyl and linoleum, the change is imperceptible. For thicker floorings, such as wood and tile, you might want to take into account the change in floor height by installing your new cabinets on shims.

  • Cost: cabinets: $16,000 (27% of total); appliances and lighting fixtures: $8,500 (15% of total); vinyl flooring: $1,000 (2% of total)
  • Key strategy: Keep old appliances, lighting fixtures, and flooring and use them until you can afford new ones.
  • Time frame: 2 to 3 weeks

Stage Three: Gut the Kitchen and Do the Electrical and Plumbing Work

Here’s where the remodel gets messy. Old cabinetry and appliances are removed, and walls may have to be opened up for new electrical circuits. Keep in close contact with your contractor during this stage so you can answer questions and clear up any problems quickly. A major kitchen remodel can take six to 10 weeks, depending on how extensive the project is.

gutted kitchen

During this stage, haul your refrigerator, microwave, and toaster oven to another room — near the laundry or the garage, for example — so you’ve got the means to cook meals. Feinberg suggests tackling this stage in the summer, when you can easily grill and eat outside. That’ll reduce the temptation to eat at restaurants, and will help keep your day-to-day costs under control.

  • Cost: $14,500 for tear-out and installation of new plumbing and electrical (25% of total)
  • Key strategies: Encourage your contractor to expedite the tear-out and installation of new systems. Plan a makeshift kitchen while the work is progressing. Schedule this work for summer when you can grill and eat outside.
  • Time frame: 6 to 10 weeks

Stage Four: Install Cabinets, Countertops, Appliances, Flooring, and Fixtures

If you’ve done your homework and bought key components in advance, you should roll through this phase. You’ve now got a (mostly) finished kitchen.

kitchen installation

A high-end countertop and backsplash can be a sizable sum of money. If you can’t quite swing it, put down a temporary top, such as painted marine plywood or inexpensivelaminate. Later, you can upgrade to granite, tile, solid surface, or marble.

  • Cost: $12,000 (21% of total)
  • Key strategy: Install an inexpensive countertop; upgrade when you’re able.
  • Time frame: 1 to 2 weeks

Final Phases: Upgrade if Necessary

Replace the inexpensive countertop, pull up the laminate flooring, and put in tile or hardwood, or buy that new refrigerator you wanted but couldn’t afford during the remodel. (Just make sure it fits in the space!)

Wine Down Wednesday – Chicken Enchilada Rice Casserole

Wine Down Wednesday Logo New
Mexican food never fails to make me happy, and this enchilada casserole is no different!  I mean, how could anything with this much cheese not taste amazing?  Requiring only 20 minutes of active preparation, it’s a breeze to make, and the 30 minute wait in the oven is totally worth it.  You’ll understand what I mean the moment you pull this bubbly beauty out of the oven.  Pair it with a Chardonnay and enjoy!
Note:  This recipe will serve 12.  I made the whole recipe and had leftovers the next day.  The recipe can easily be halved, but you’ll probably regret doing that when you run out!
chicken enchilada rice casseroleINGREDIENTS
  • 3 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
  • 2 cups dry Basmati rice
  • 2 cans (10 oz each) Enchilada sauce
  • 1 can (16 oz) refried beans
  • 1 cup white cheddar, shredded
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 can (11 oz) corn kernel, drained
  • cilantro for garnish
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Cook the rice.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
  3. Mix the 2 cheeses together.
  4. In a large bowl mix the shredded chicken with the enchilada sauce, refried beans and half of the cheese. Add rice, season with salt and pepper if needed, and mix well. Pour rice mixture into a large casserole dish. Top with corn then with remainder of cheese.
  5. Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes or until cheese melts and is bubbly.
  6. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve warm.

Tech Tuesday – Apple Beats Android at Parental Controls

Tech Tuesday Logoparental controlsChildren who were on the nice list this year may have unwrapped smartphones as holiday gifts. But parents may be wary of the naughty things that children can do with the devices — and with good reason.  Kids are becoming more and more tech savvy, which, in some cases, can get them into trouble.  The increasing popularity of vault apps is a prime example.  Vault apps are apps that masquerade as inconspicuous utility apps but are actually used for secret messaging or data storage.  Another culprit is “freemium” apps; these are usually games which are free to download but but come with their own mini stores to purchase additional content.  If your account is associated with your kid’s smartphone or tablet, you may start to see several small charges to your credit card.

You want your children (and wallet) to be safe, so what could you possibly do to ensure that they are?  Luckily, there are ways to restrict what your children can access on their devices; unfortunately, the extent to which you can restrict actually depends on whether you’re using Apple or Android devices.  As it turns out, Apple offers a multitude of options for parental controls on their devices.  Android, by contrast, is lagging in this regard.

The heart of the iPhone’s parental controls is a feature called Family Sharing. Setting it up involves designating a parent’s iTunes account as the primary credit card holder. The parent can invite multiple Apple accounts to join the group, letting family members make purchases from the same credit card and share content purchases with one another. In other words, if you buy an app on one phone, other members of the family can also use that app without having to pay for it again.

family sharing

Setting up Family Sharing on your multiple Apple devices requires only a short amount of time commitment, but from then on, it’s smooth sailing.

A key part of Family Sharing is a feature called Ask to Buy. With the feature enabled, whenever a child tries to download an app or make a purchase inside an app, the parent’s iPhone receives a notification and a detailed description of the content. The parent can then choose to allow or deny the purchase.  The feature should come in handy for parents who don’t want their children to rack up hefty credit card bills with in-app purchases. It should also help parents who are concerned about so-called vault apps and want to vet the apps their children are downloading.

ask to buy

Inside the iPhone’s settings app, there is also a setting called Restrictions. It’s basically a switchboard full of features you can enable or disable on an iPhone. On a child’s iPhone, you can restrict the Safari browser from loading websites with adult content. For parents who occasionally hand over their own phone to a child to play a game, you can create a restriction on your phone that disables the ability to delete apps to minimize the risk of losing important content.

Another common headache for parents: Children who unwittingly burn through the data on a phone plan by constantly streaming video or music over a cellular connection. In the iPhone’s settings, you can disable apps like Netflix or Apple Music from using cellular content. Then in the iPhone’s restriction settings, you can block the ability to re-enable cellular data use for those apps.

restrictions

The Android system, on the other hand, could only accomplish a few family-related tasks, and in imperfect ways: It could restrict children from downloading apps and other content at certain maturity levels, and it also was able to partly prevent a child from downloading in-app content by requiring authentication, like a password, for making purchases.

Android lacks features for blocking adult content inside web browsers or vetting vault apps. There are some limited solutions: Google’s search engine can be set up with a feature called SafeSearch to prevent web searches for adult content. Some apps, like YouTube, can also be configured to filter out inappropriate content.

Similarly, the system also lacks the ability to disable cellular data use for certain apps, though one restriction in YouTube lets you stream high-definition video only over a Wi-Fi connection. Still, that won’t do much to prevent a child from using all your cell data.

applockAndroid users can also download third-party apps to help prevent certain activities. The app AppLock, for instance, can be used to lock down any app that a parent suspects to be a vault app with a PIN code. Another piece of software called PhoneSheriff can be used to monitor and block activities on multiple cellphones; it costs a hefty $90.

Over all, the lack of built-in restrictions for Android suggested that parental controls are an afterthought for Google.

The most likely reason Google lagged Apple on parental controls is because of the open-source nature of Android. Google lets device manufacturers install Android on their phones and customize the system to their liking, like adding their own parental control settings.

Though Apple’s childproofing solutions are thorough, technology alone cannot solve all our problems. In addition to using phone restrictions, it would be wise for parents to have a conversation with their children about what is right and wrong, and to help them earn privileges to different features when they prove they understand.  Children are going to need to be able to independently manage their own time and make the right choices, and constantly being the Internet police may not be very conducive.

The Top 3 Rules for Tree Care

WHEN dry weather continues for an extended period, landscape trees depend on homeowners for water. Millions of urban and landscape trees alike are lost due to drought, so it’s important to take care of surviving trees and nurture replacement trees with proper watering.

The amount of water a tree needs depends on many factors, including the age and species of the tree, the time of year, weather and soil type. As a rule, newly planted and young trees require more frequent watering than older, well-established trees. But during extended periods of drought, all trees benefit from supplemental watering.

During periods of drought, the goal is to provide just enough supplemental irrigation to maximize growth on young trees and to keep older, established trees healthy. We don’t want to water so much or so often that we encourage more canopy growth than the soil, climate and tree species can support during normal rainfall years. Excessive watering can make a tree dependent on irrigation rather than resilient enough to survive on what nature normally provides.

Watering Newly Planted Trees

Newly planted treeFor the first several months after planting, most of the tree’s roots are still within the original root ball.

For the first several months after planting, most of a tree’s roots are still within the original root ball, with some roots beginning to grow beyond this area. The root ball and the surrounding soil should be kept evenly moist to encourage healthy root growth. After a few months, expand the watering zone to cover the entire area under the canopy. It can take two or more growing seasons for a tree to become established — for roots to venture into the soil well beyond the planting hole. It’s vital to provide supplemental moisture in those early years, if nature doesn’t provide regular soaking rains. During hot, dry weather, new trees may require water as often as three times per week to ensure that the root ball doesn’t dry out.

Watering Established Trees

Established treesOnce a tree is established, apply water in a wide band around the outer reaches of the tree’s canopy, called the dripline.

It’s a common misconception that a tree’s roots are a mirror image of the aboveground canopy. In reality, an established tree’s roots usually extend well beyond the edge of the canopy, or drip line. Although some anchor roots may reach deep into the soil, most tree roots are concentrated in the upper 12″ to 18″ of soil. When watering established trees, provide a deep, soaking irrigation to the entire area beneath the tree canopy and extending several feet beyond the drip line. Ideally, you should moisten the soil to a depth of 10″ each time you water. To prevent rot, don’t apply water to the area directly around the trunk.

Know When to Water

The easiest way to check soil moisture is to take a long (8″-plus) screwdriver and poke it into the soil. It will pass easily into moist soil, but be difficult to push into dry soil. If you can’t poke it in at least 6″, it’s time to water. This technique works best in clay and loam soils.

How to Apply Water

Overhead sprinklers are the easiest way to cover large expanses, but they’re inefficient, losing up to half the water to evaporation. Trees are better served by watering methods that apply water slowly, right at soil level. It may take several hours to properly water a single mature tree.

Soaker hoseA soaker hose applies water slowly so it soaks in rather than running off.

Soaker hoses are an efficient way to water trees because they’re porous and release water slowly. Encircle a tree with a spiral of soaker hose and run it for an hour or more — as long as it takes for water to penetrate 6″ or 8″, using the screwdriver test.

A pressure regulator improves the efficiency and prolongs the life of soaker hoses.

Bubblers are hose-end devices that reduce the velocity of the water, so it soaks in rather than running off. Because it waters one spot at a time, you’ll need to move the bubbler around.

If possible, avoid watering during the hottest part of the day — 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. — to conserve water.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much water does my tree need?
As a general rule of thumb, apply an inch of sprinkler irrigation or enough water to moisten the soil to a depth of 10″ or more for mature trees. A common mistake is to apply frequent shallow waterings that don’t soak deeply into the soil.

My irrigation system waters my lawn regularly. Isn’t that enough for my trees?
Probably not. Most irrigation systems are programmed to apply frequent, shallow waterings. Trees do better with less frequent but deeper soakings — a heavy soaking once a week is much better than a shallow watering every few days. That’s because shallow waterings encourage tree roots to remain near the soil surface where they’re prone to drying out. Watering deeply, on the other hand, encourages deep, drought-tolerant roots.

Should I mulch under my trees?
Yes. Grass growing under trees will intercept much of the water you apply, keeping it from reaching plant roots. It’s best to keep a large (3′ plus), turf-free circle around the trunk. A 2″ to 3″ layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark or pine straw, helps conserve moisture and keeps weeds at bay. To prevent rot, don’t pile mulch against the trunk.

Should I fertilize during a drought?
As a rule, drought-stressed trees should not be fertilized. When water supplies are limited, trees naturally slow their growth. Applying fertilizer can encourage a flush of growth that causes the tree to require more water than is available. And the salts in many fertilizers can harm drought-stressed roots.

Is the technique the same for those of us living in desert climates?
In desert conditions irrigation should soak the soil at least 3′ deep. In areas with such salty water and salty soil, deep watering helps by leaching salts past the root zone. Salt burn is very common, especially with non-native trees. Deep irrigation also encourages roots to grow deeply, as opposed to frequent light watering which leads to shallow roots that are more vulnerable to drying out.

Take Steps to Minimize Tree Stress During Drought

  • Avoid digging under and around trees so you don’t disturb the roots
  • Don’t do any heavy pruning. However, it’s OK to remove broken, dead, insect-infested or diseased branches.
  • Keep an eye out for insect pests and disease, because drought-stressed trees are more vulnerable to attack.
  • Avoid using high-nitrogen lawn fertilizers under trees, and never use weed-and-feed products, which can harm tree roots.

Watering Restrictions

Even if your municipality imposes watering restrictions, it’s likely you’ll be able to properly water trees. If you must choose between turf and trees, remember that trees are a bigger investment. And it will take years, if not decades, for a newly planted tree to take the place of a mature tree that has been lost to drought.