RE/MAX 440
John F. O'Hara

John F. O'Hara
731 W Skippack Pike  Blue Bell  PA 19422
Phone:  610-277-4060
Office:  215-643-3200
Cell:  267-481-1786
Fax:  267-354-6973

My Blog

8 Ways to Protect Your Landscape from Wintry Weather

December 4, 2015 1:33 am

Be it freezing temperatures, snow or ice, wintry weather can damage, and even destroy, the landscaping on your property—no matter how resilient your plants seem.

“When inclement weather is in the forecast, most people focus on stocking up on food, rock salt and other necessities, and don’t necessarily think about protecting their property and landscape investments,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of Public Affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). “The truth is, plants and trees can be especially vulnerable during periods of extreme weather. A few simple steps can make a big difference when it comes to ensuring that your landscaping survives the winter and will thrive again in the spring.”

To protect your trees, shrubs and other plants, the NALP suggests:

Wrapping plants and smaller trees - Sub-freezing temperatures can damage many plant varieties, including roses, butterfly bushes, hydrangeas and crape myrtles. To provide plants with extra protection from the wind and cold, wrap them in burlap or a frost protection fabric and plant them along a building or fence that offers wind protection. 

Inspecting newly planted trees and filling in any cracks - If you spot a crack, fill it with soil to prevent cold air from penetrating the root zone. Plant roots are slower to become dormant in the winter than stems, branches and buds, making them more vulnerable to sub-freezing temperatures.

Applying mulch around trees and shrubs - A two- to three-inch layer of mulch will help to insulate roots when the temperature drops. Contrary to popular belief, snow cover will also act as an insulator and keep soil temperatures higher, so there is no need to remove accumulated snow from around plants.

Watering heavily before the ground freezes - If the fall season was particularly dry, watering heavily can help reduce frost penetration. Because moist soil holds more heat than dry soil, watering ahead of cold weather will help to prevent frost from penetrating as deeply.

Pruning tree branches - Trimming back branches will help protect against heavy snow and ice damage. Work with a professional to identify any dead or dangerous tree limbs that should be trimmed to protect your home and property.

Preparing for windy conditions - Wind can be one of the most damaging effects of a winter storm. Secure any potted plants, outdoor furniture, awnings and other items on your property that could get damaged in high winds. 

Protecting plants from salt - Rock salt used to deice sidewalks and roads can cause damage to plants. Avoid planting trees and shrubs in areas where salty runoff collects or where salt spray from passing cars could splash onto plants. Consider using burlap barriers to protect plants in vulnerable areas. 

Planning your landscape with climate in mind - The best way to prevent damage to your landscape is to select plants and trees that are indigenous to your region, and therefore naturally equipped to survive in the climate. A landscape professional can help you to design a landscape for your home that will suit your lifestyle and withstand your region’s elements.

Source: NALP

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Donating to Charity? Tax Provisions to Consider

December 3, 2015 1:33 am

Giving season is upon us. Whether you plan to gift monetarily or through in-kind donations, there are several recently-effective tax law provisions to be aware of, according to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Among these are:

Guidelines for Monetary Donations

• A taxpayer must have a bank record or a written statement from the charity in order to deduct any donation of money, regardless of the amount. The record must show the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution.

• Bank records include canceled checks and bank, credit union and credit card statements. Bank or credit union statements should show the name of the charity, the date and the amount paid. Credit card statements should show the name of the charity, the date and the transaction posting date.
 
• Donations of money include those made in cash or by check, electronic funds transfer, credit card and payroll deduction. For payroll deductions, the taxpayer should retain a pay stub, a Form W-2 wage statement or other document furnished by the employer showing the total amount withheld for charity, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity.
 
• These requirements for the deduction of monetary donations do not change the long-standing requirement that a taxpayer obtain an acknowledgment from a charity for each deductible donation (either money or property) of $250 or more. However, one statement containing all of the required information may meet both requirements.
 
Guidelines for Charitable Contributions of Clothing and Household Items
 
• Household items include furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances and linens. Clothing and household items donated to charity generally must be in good used condition or better to be tax-deductible. A clothing or household item for which a taxpayer claims a deduction of over $500 does not have to meet this standard if the taxpayer includes a qualified appraisal of the item with the return.
 
• For all donations of property, including clothing and household items, get from the charity, if possible, a receipt that includes the name of the charity, date of the contribution, and a reasonably-detailed description of the donated property. If a donation is left at a charity’s unattended drop site, keep a written record of the donation that includes this information, as well as the fair market value of the property at the time of the donation and the method used to determine that value.
 
• Donors must get a written acknowledgement from the charity for all gifts worth $250 or more. It must include, among other things, a description of the items contributed.
 
• The deduction for a car, boat or airplane donated to charity is usually limited to the gross proceeds from its sale. This rule applies if the claimed value is more than $500. Form 1098-C or a similar statement must be provided to the donor by the organization and attached to the donor’s tax return.
 
Before making any monetary donation or charitable contribution, determine the eligibility of the organization. Only donations to eligible organizations are tax-deductible. Select Check, a searchable online tool available on IRS.gov, lists most organizations that are eligible to receive deductible contributions.
 
Churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and government agencies are eligible to receive deductible donations. That is true even if they are not listed in the tool’s database.
 
Keep in mind that contributions are deductible in the year made. Thus, donations charged to a credit card before the end of 2015 count for 2015, even if the credit card bill isn’t paid until 2016. Checks count for 2015 as long as they are mailed in 2015.
 
For individuals, only taxpayers who itemize their deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A can claim deductions for charitable contributions. This deduction is not available to individuals who choose the standard deduction. This includes anyone who files a short form (Form 1040A or 1040EZ). A taxpayer will have a tax savings only if the total itemized deductions (mortgage interest, charitable contributions, state and local taxes, etc.) exceed the standard deduction. Use the 2015 Form 1040 Schedule A to determine whether itemizing is better than claiming the standard deduction.
 
Remember, too, that if the amount of a taxpayer’s deduction for all noncash contributions is over $500, a properly-completed Form 8283 must be submitted with the tax return.
 
Source: IRS

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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