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Soil can benefit from woodstove ashes — sometimes

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For gardeners who heat their homes in winter using stoves or fireplaces, good-quality wood ashes can be a soil-amendment bonus. But if applied improperly, they can be a caustic topping for foliage-heavy plants and seedlings.

The primary benefits of recycling wood ash into the soil are for fertilizing and raising pH levels to make soil less acidic, said Leonard Perry, horticulture professor emeritus with the University of Vermont.

Wood stove ashes can be spread lightly around a newly planted tree to raise soil pH acidity. Plants that thrive with a dressing of nutrient-rich wood ashes include garlic, chives, leeks, lettuces, asparagus and stone fruit trees. Don't apply it if your soil tests 6.5 to 7 or above.
Wood stove ashes can be spread lightly around a newly planted tree to raise soil pH acidity. Plants that thrive with a dressing of nutrient-rich wood ashes include garlic, chives, leeks, lettuces, asparagus and stone fruit trees. Don’t apply it if your soil tests 6.5 to 7 or above.  (Dean Fosdick / The Associated Press)

Soil pH acidity is measured on a 14-point scale, with 7 being neutral. Anything below 7 is classified acidic. Anything above that is alkaline.

“What this means for soil ashes is that if your soil is 6.5 to 7 or above, don’t add them,” Perry said in a fact sheet.

Always test the soil before spreading ashes.

“Too high a pH will bind up micronutrients that your crops need,” said Julia Gaskin, a land application specialist with the University of Georgia. “If you are just getting started in a garden spot, soil-test every year until you get the fertility and soil organic matter right. Then you can test every other year or so.”

Wood ash contains calcium, magnesium and potassium among a dozen or more important nutrients. “They vary widely with the types of trees being burned,” Gaskin said.

Hardwoods, including oak, maple, ash, hickory, sycamore, walnut, apple and cherry, burn hotter and longer. They also produce several times more ash and contain more nutrients than softwoods like pine and fir.

Avoid using fireplace or wood ashes from pressure-treated wood, painted wood and cardboard. They carry chemicals that can harm plants. The same goes for charcoal residue from BBQ grills, fake fireplace logs and coal.

Wood ash can be used sparingly in gardens, spread thinly over lawns and stirred thoroughly into compost piles.

Lawns needing lime and potassium benefit from wood ash — 10 to 15 pounds per 1,000 square feet, Perry said. “This is the amount you may get from one cord of firewood,” he said.

Spreading wood ash on compost piles keeps the acidity level near neutral. “Sprinkle some on each layer of compost as you build the pile,” Perry said. “Another option is to store wood ashes dry, then make a ‘tea’ with them during the growing season for watering plants and so providing some nutrition.”

Avoid applying wood ashes if you’re about to seed your garden, said Alicia Lamborn, a horticulturist with University of Florida.

“If you want to use wood ash as a pH source, then do it three to six months before you plant,” Lamborn said. “It takes some time to work it into the soil. A chemical change needs to occur. You want to do that ahead of time before you put any plants into the ground.”

Some people store the ash they remove from their stoves in winter for applications throughout the year. “You don’t want to pile it on in one season or just one time,” Lamborn said.

Do not spread ashes around acid-loving plants like blueberries, strawberries, azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, holly, potatoes or parsley. Plants that thrive with a dressing of wood ash include garlic, chives, leeks, lettuces, asparagus and stone-fruit trees.

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Victoria real estate agent disciplined for false advertising, encouraging cash deal to avoid taxes

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A Victoria real estate agent is facing $9,000 in fines and a 60-day licence suspension after breaking several professional rules during the sale of her father’s half-million-dollar property, according to a decision by the Real Estate Council of B.C. 

Whitney Garside’s missteps — outlined this week in a disciplinary decision posted on the council’s website — included falsely advertising the property as being almost twice its actual size and advising the buyer they could avoid the property transfer tax if they paid cash directly to the seller.

The property on Burnett Road in Victoria was being sold in 2016 by the real estate agent’s father. That relationship was disclosed and isn’t among the reasons she has been disciplined.

According to the disciplinary consent order, Garside told the buyer — whose name is redacted — that by paying $42,000 cash on the side, the value of the property could be reduced to avoid paying the property transfer tax.

That cash arrangement was not shared with Garside’s brokerage, Re/Max Camosun, a failure that contravened the Real Estate Services Act.

The council also ruled that she “failed to act honestly and with reasonable care and skill” when she advised the buyer the property transfer tax could be avoided by paying cash directly to the seller. 

The council’s discipline committee also found that Garside committed professional misconduct when she failed to recommend the seller and buyer seek independent legal advice, specifically regarding the property transfer tax and the cash agreement.

Another issue the council considered professional misconduct involved the size of the property in question.

The council ruled that Garside published false and misleading advertising and failed to act with reasonable care and skill when the property was advertised as 8,712 square feet, when in fact a portion of the lot belonged to the Ministry of Transportation, and the actual size was just 4,711 square feet.

The discipline committee ordered Garside’s licence be suspended for 60 days, which will be completed Jan. 3, 2021.

She has also been ordered to complete real estate ethics and remedial classes at her own expense.

Garside was also fined $7,500 as a disciplinary penalty and $1,500 in enforcement expenses.

She agreed to waive her right to appeal the council’s discipline committee’s decision in September.

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Frisco apartment community sells to Canadian investor

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A Canada-based investor has purchased a Frisco apartment community as part of a larger Texas deal.

The 330-unit Satori Frisco apartments opened last year on Research Road in Frisco.

BSR Real Estate Investment Trust bought the four-story rental community that was built by Atlanta-based Davis Development.

Satori Frisco was more than 90% leased at the time of sale. The property includes a two-story fitness center, a car care center, a dog park and a resort-style swimming pool.

The Frisco property sold along with Houston’s Vale luxury apartments in a deal valued at $129 million.

“BSR recently exited the smaller Beaumont and Longview, Texas, markets and also sold noncore properties in other markets,” John Bailey, BSR’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “We are now using our strong liquidity position to invest in Vale and Satori Frisco, modern communities in core growth markets with the amenities our residents desire.”

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House prices on Prince Edward Island continue steady climb

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Residential real estate prices on Prince Edward Island continue to climb at a rate higher than the national average, according to the latest report from a national organization. 

The Canadian Real Estate Association released monthly figures for November 2020 on Tuesday.

They show that the average price for a resale home on P.E.I. is about 21 per cent higher than it was a year earlier. 

Only Quebec had a bigger year-over-year increase, at about 23 per cent. Overall across Canada, prices were up 13.8 per cent year over year in the ninth month of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For the fifth straight month, year-over-year sales activity was up in almost all Canadian housing markets compared to the same month in 2019,” the report noted.

“Meanwhile, an ongoing shortage of supply of homes available for purchase across most of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces means sellers there hold the upper hand in sales negotiations.”

That lack of houses coming onto the market compared to the demand means that in those provinces, there is “increased competition among buyers for listings and … fertile ground for price gains.”

There have been anecdotal reports for months that Prince Edward Island’s low rate of COVID-19 infection and looser rules around social activities have been encouraging people to buy homes on the Island. 

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