Ask the Experts

When you’re on the fence about the best way to keep your furniture, shrubs, or kitchen pristine, you want to talk to someone who can dispel the myths and give you a pro’s know-how. So forget the Google search—we rounded up Charlotte’s gardening and home maintenance experts and asked them some household FAQs

Q: How can I keep my furniture from fading over time?
When it comes to keeping your mahogany wood rich and your baby-blue cushions crisp, getting a barrier between your furniture and the color-fading sun is key, says Addison Ruffin, upholstery specialist at Circa Interiors & Antiques. She says that while the traditional solutions to keeping light out are still dependable (such as a heavy curtain or wood blinds), there are new products on the market that can protect your furniture without nixing natural light. “Invisible protective films have been developed for your windows that will shield interior spaces from excessive sunlight,” Ruffin says. And, while SPF fabric might sound too good to be true, it’s not. Check out Sunbrella, a line of UV-
resistant fabrics.

Q: Is it necessary to seal my granite countertops?
While some experts claim that only very porous stones need to be sealed, Tom Waite of Imported Stone says, “it’s better to be safe than sorry … stone countertops are a large investment, and spending an hour once a year doing a thorough cleaning and resealing is time well spent.” Waite recommends sealing granite countertops once a year and marble every six months, but to find out when the time has come to reseal, he suggests putting a teaspoon of water on your countertop and letting it sit for a couple minutes. “Wipe it off, and if the stone appears dark where the water was, it indicates that the stone is absorbent and that it’s time to reseal.”

Q: I’d like to plant some trees in my yard, but when should I plant them?
The best time of year to plant trees depends a lot on your gardening style, says Brian Stubbs of Latham’s Nursery. In Southern climates, where permafrost isn’t a big concern, planting in the fall means that tree roots can take hold without being dried out by the summer sun. But, he says, “it really depends on the homeowner. If you’re intensive in the yard, and disciplined about irrigation, then by all means, plant in the spring and summer. But if you’re planning to be on vacation a lot, and can’t water, they’ll dry out quickly.” The risk with planting before winter, Stubbs warns, is that some branches might “scorch” from cold and wind, and you’ll have to cut them back in the spring.

Q: How can I reduce or prevent weeds without showering my lawn in chemicals?
To lower the dandelion count on your lawn, you need to get to the stubborn seeds before they have a chance to sprout says Marshall Dander of Pike Nurseries. “When the first organic sprays came out, they weren’t that great,” he adds, “but now, they’re much better, and people are turning more and more to organics.” Concern Weed Prevention Plus is an all-natural granular treatment that prevents broad leaf weeds from cropping up. Sprinkle it in the early spring, says Dander, and you won’t have to worry nearly as much about spending your summer weed-whacking. Even if a few pop up, a quick squirt of the citrus-oil-based Worry Free Weed & Grass Killer will take care of them.

Q: Are there any colorful shrubs or flowers I can plant that won’t attract a ton of deer and other critters?
Sadly, no. “If they’re hungry, they’ll eat,” says Kevin James of Kevin James Landscape Inc. So while there’s probably no such thing as a deer-, squirrel-, or rabbit-proof plant, there are plenty of easy, DIY options for keeping them at bay. To keep wildlife out of your perennials, James suggests sprinkling Fresh Step cat litter, which doesn’t harm the soil and repels animals, around each plant. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, James says to buy a bottle of Tabasco or other hot sauce and mix it with water in a spray bottle. It just takes a few spritzes on your herbs or flowerbed to send your forest friends running.

Q: How often should I clean my air filters?
As a rule of thumb, clean washable filters or replace disposable ones about once a month, says Chris Horne, owner of Horne Heating and Air Conditioning. Most one-inch filters can last between thirty and forty-five days until they need to be cleaned out, but in high-use seasons like the summer and winter, they need to be monitored even more carefully. “Homeowners may see more dust or debris on the filter if there is a lot of in-and-out traffic, [like] if the windows are left open or if the house has a lot of air leaks,” Horne says. If so, he recommends picking up a Trane CleanEffects air filtration system; it takes care of air throughout the whole house, and only needs cleaning every three to six  months.