Prelude to spring


What every family needs to do before moving to a home with a pool

Nearly 300-children under the age of five drown in pools and spas every year. The number one way to prevent drownings is through proactive parent supervision, but most drownings occur when a child was thought to be in the house but slipped outside without anyone knowing. This year alone, at least two children drowned days after their family moved into a new home.
In 77 percent of accidental drownings, the child had been seen 5-minutes or less before being missed. That’s why pool safety advocates at Life Saver Pool Fence urge parents to install layers of protection in a home before they move in. These are designed to block kids from getting to the pool or at least slow them down so parents have more time to get to them before the child gets to a pool.

1. High locks on all doors and windows
Before you move in, install locks on doors and windows that are high and out of the reach of young children. Put them on every door and window that leads to the pool area. Some drownings happen because a parent didn’t know their toddler had figured out the door knob or lock and the simply walked out on their own. Don’t forget about sliding glass doors that small children can slide open.

2. Door and window alarms
Home buyers who have never owned a pool may not realize children are drawn to water, even when it is cold outside. Families can self-install simple contact alarms for doors and windows that lead to the pool or contract with a security company. In every case, it’s important to keep the alarms activated. If an older child disables the alarm, a younger sibling could easily slip outside without anyone knowing.
Also consider installing an alarm on any gates that lead to the pool. Adults can use a bypass switch that will keep kids out when there is no one around to supervise.

3. No doggy doors
If you have toddlers in the home, any pet doors that grant access to a pool or spa should also be permanently sealed off. Toddlers are known to mimic their pets and may follow them right out the doggy door and into the pool area. That puts both the child and the pet at risk of falling in the water. Instead, move the doggy door to an area that is secure with no access to the pool or spa.

4. Pool safety fence
Perhaps one of the most reassuring steps is installing a pool fence. Fences should be at least 4 feet tall and have a self-closing, self-latching gate. Mesh pool safety fences, like Life Saver Pool Fence, have proven to be an effective layer of protection with a transparent and aesthetically pleasing look that is easy to remove and reinstall by the homeowner. Make sure the fence surrounds the pool, so there are no doors or windows leading directly from the home into the pool area.

5. Pool alarms
There are several types of alarms that will provide another layer of protection against drowning. Surface pool alarms will trigger an alarm inside the home when the water’s surface is broken. However, a small child could quietly walk down the pool steps and slip under water without making a big splash or setting off the alarm, so pool surface alarms cannot be used alone.
Subsurface pool alarms detect disturbances beneath the surface. They cost more but are less prone to false triggers than floating alarms and more reliable than surface alarms.

6. Child immersion alarms
When you first move into a home, consider using a wearable immersion alarm, like the Safety Turtle, which triggers an alarm inside the house if the sensor gets wet. This is especially important in a new home when you are unfamiliar with the area. It resembles a watch and can protect against all water hazards, including a neighbor’s pool, ponds, and rivers.

7. Assign water watchers
When children are in the pool, assign one person as a designated Water Watcher and change shifts every 15 minutes. Active supervision means sitting close to the pool with your full attention on the child/children—no phones or reading materials. Do a regular headcount and step in when there is too much horsing around. If you have to walk away for any reason, another adult must be designated as the water watcher.
Do not leave a toddler or young child in the pool area without adult supervision. Older children are not always as sensitive to the dangers of drowning, and may not recognize the warning signs.

8. Clear out pool area after swimming
Get in the habit of always removing floats from the pool when finished, especially toys that could attract a child to the water. Children who are in pursuit of a toy won’t think twice about breaking the rules to get it.
Also, make sure to move any tables or chairs away from the pool fence so they cannot be used to climb over. Make a rule from day one that the pool area is for swimming only, so children don’t get used to being near the water when parents are not around.

9. Swimming lessons
As soon as a parent and pediatricians feel comfortable, all children should receive swimming lessons. Some organizations even offer training for infants to roll over and float, and to swim to the edge of the pool in case they fall in.
No matter how much instruction your child has, it’s important to give them a refresher if they have not been swimming in a while, like the winter months. That’s true even in warm weather states, like Florida, Arizona, and California where drowning is the number one cause of death for children under five.

10. CPR
Every parent, babysitter, and teenager should be trained in CPR. Check out local community centers for classes as soon as you move to your new home. This training is essential to get oxygen to the brain and can make the difference between life, permanent disability, and death.
You cannot drown-proof a child, but every layer of protection that you add significantly reduces the chance of a child drowning incident—the more, the better. Of those steps, pool safety fencing is arguably the most effective at preventing fatal drowning incidents because it physically prevents access to the pool, making your pool safer for your children and your neighbors.
For more information on making a pool safe, check out the Parents Guide to Pool Safety at
Eric Lupton is President of Life Saver Pool Fence.

—By Eric Lupton

Why drowning is not like the movies

Drowning is not what we are used to seeing in the movies – with someone splashing around and calling for help. It is usually silent, especially with young children who do not realize they won’t be able to breathe underwater.
That’s why it is important to assign one person as a designated water watcher and change shifts every 15 minutes when children are in the pool. Active supervision means:
• No phones or reading materials
• Sitting close to the pool with your full attention on the child/children
• Do a regular headcount
• Step in when there is too much horsing around
• If you have to step away, another adult must be designated as the water watcher
Do not leave a toddler or young child in the pool area without adult supervision. Older children are not always as sensitive to the dangers of drowning, and my not recognize the warning signs.

Warning signs someone is in trouble
The Instinctive Drowning Response – so named by Francesco A. Pia, PhD – explains why there is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help. A person who is drowning is simply in survival mode. Except in rare circumstances, people who are drowning cannot physiologically call out for help. When someone is gasping for air, they cannot speak. While they may be able to pull themselves up momentarily above the surface of the water, they are not above the water long enough to exhale, inhale and yell for help. Someone who is drowning also cannot wave for help. They cannot voluntarily control their arm movements, as they instinctively extend their arms laterally to press down on the water’s surface to try to leverage their bodies and lift their face out of the water.

Look for these signs of drowning:
• Head low in the water, mouth at water level
• Head tilted back with mouth open
• Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
• Eyes closed
• Hair over forehead or eyes
• Body is upright and vertical, but there is no leg kick
• Hyperventilating or gasping
• Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
• Trying to roll over on the back
• Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder
Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water.
One way to be sure is to simply ask them, “Are you alright?” If they can answer, they are probably okay. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to rescue them.
That’s also why every parent, babysitter, and teenager should be trained in CPR. This training is essential to get oxygen to the brain and can make the difference between life, permanent disability, and death.
For more pool safety tips, download the Pool Safety Guide from Life Saver Pool Fence.

A new denizen may be lurking in your soil

As memories of the storms and temperature rollercoaster that was the Winter of 2017-18 begin to fade, gardeners in the Capital District turn their focus from the seed and garden supply catalogues to their garden beds as they plan their strategy for producing the most dramatic flowers and the most prolific vegetables. However, this year, there may be a denizen lurking in their soil. The jumping worm.
What’s the problem? Asian earthworms, Amynthas agrestis—aka crazy worms, snake worms, Alabama jumpers—have been discovered in New York, New England, the Mid-West, mid-Atlantic and southeastern states. As their common name infers, these worms differ from European worms in behavior and appearance. They thrash wildly and jump when handled. They are also able to shed their tails as a defensive move. Smooth and glossy gray or brown, these invasive worms can grow up to 8 inches in length. Another distinguishing feature is the smooth, sometimes milky white band near the head of the worm (clitellum) that completely encircles the body. European worms have a raised, segmented saddle-like clitellum.
Why all the fuss? Like the European worm, these Asian jumping worms alter the soil structure. They rob plants of vital nutrients by consuming organic matter—leaf litter as well as organic mulches. The Asian earthworm devours the organic materials far faster than the European earthworm. These invasives grow twice as fast and reproduce quickly, making it possible to infest soils at high densities. Jumping worms can severely damage the roots of plants in nurseries, forests, turf and in the home garden. They also contribute to the spread of invasive plants by disturbing the soil.
How do they spread? These prolific worms reproduce asexually. While the adult worm dies in late fall, their young survive the winter in tiny, resilient dirt-colored cocoons that are impossible to see with the naked eye. So, if you are looking for these unwanted residents in your garden beds, they will not be easily visible until June.
How can I tell if I have them? Look for them on the soil surface, not deep in the soil. After consuming the nutrients in organic materials, the Asian jumping worms leave the soil with a grainy texture, resembling coffee grounds. If you do discover these “intruders” in your garden beds, the best way to reduce the population is to catch them and place them in a plastic bag. Seal the bag and place it in the sun for at least 10 minutes and then throw the bag away.
What can a home gardener do? There is no natural predator for these worms and pesticides have not proven to be effective. Since these denizens can find their way to your compost pile, vegetable garden or perennial border via a plant dug from a friend’s garden, a tree from an arborist or any plant material not grown in a sterile medium, the home gardener must be very careful about the source of new plant material. It is also important to make sure that any compost that you purchase or use has been effectively heated to the appropriate levels to reduce pathogens. The gardener should also remove any soil from tools, equipment and boots before moving to another location.
What are the Albany County Master Gardeners doing? In the face of the jumping worm dilemma, the Master Gardeners of Albany County have had to make a change in their annual Garden Education Day Plant Sale. This annual event raises the monies that the Master Gardener Volunteer Program uses for a variety of garden projects at public/historical sites such as Schuyler Mansion and Ten Broeck Mansion, Pine Hills Library and numerous schools as well as garden-based learning programming for young and old.
The focus of Garden Education Day 2018 on Saturday, May 19 from 9am to 1pm will be educating the public about the dangers of the Asian Jumping worm and methods that can be used to curb the spread of these garden denizens. As we cannot guarantee that perennials we dig up to sell will not contain the cocoons of these worms, there will be no dug plants offered for sale. There will be a large supply of annuals and vegetables that have been started from seed as well as educational demonstrations about a variety of gardening practices including what to do about Asian jumping worms.
Still have questions? Visit or call your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office to speak to a Master Gardener.

—By Christine Saplin, Albany County Master Gardener

Ideas to help you reap big rewards from your garden

Get active outdoors with a hobby more satisfying than binge-watching another television series. As a pastime, gardening can help you eat delicious, more flavorful food while transforming your patio or yard into a colorful hangout for butterflies and bees.
Many people don’t realize how easy it is to have a fresh supply of crisp veggies, fragrant herbs or fresh-grown flowers. Whether you have a balcony, rooftop or patio, gardening is a hobby that quite literally allows you to harvest big rewards.
One of the most exciting parts of gardening is deciding what to grow. With thousands of plants to choose from – flowers, vegetables and herbs – a small pot of soil can be a canvas for creativity.
To find the most popular flowers and plants this year, we checked in with Ball Horticultural Company, a global leader on all things gardening, to see what the top trends are in 2018.

Strong and colorful
When spring arrives, we all crave color and warmth to celebrate the end of winter. To get that wow factor – and get it fast – try planting flowers that grow and fill in quickly and thrive in extremes. The Megawatt Begonia brings magnetic color even in shaded spaces. It’s also a low-maintenance option if you’re new to gardening. Likewise, the Echinacea Sombrero Sangrita is a perennial flower that returns each year with stunning red blossoms.

For foodies who want to show off
Every chef knows the secret to tasty cooking is great ingredients. For many gardeners, the truly magical combination is finding that edible veggie that looks as good as it tastes. Take 2 Combos combine two sweet pepper plants with a touch of heat and beautiful orange and yellow fruit. There’s also a combo of a slicer and cherry tomato perfect for small spaces and for snacking and cooking. Speaking of peppers, a new, attractive variety is Candy Cane Red Pepper. It has green fruit striping that ripens to red and offers up crisp, sweet flavors, much like a candy cane!

A refuge for bees, butterflies and beyond
There are dozens of reasons people choose to garden: fresh food, interior and exterior decoration, relaxation, stress reduction and more. One emerging trend is that people want to make their garden a destination for pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. A few captivating flowers that attract these beautiful and helpful creatures are:
• Lucky Star Pentas – Provides butterflies summer-long flower clusters in eye-catching colors
• Copper Prince Ornamental Millet – This thriller makes a dramatic statement with foxtail plumes that birds feast upon
• SuperBlue Lavender – A deeply colorful and fragrant bee magnet Gardening helps you relax and decompress. What’s more, there is a huge amount of satisfaction involved in seeing your vegetables and flowers grow. Follow these trends and watch your plants blossom and beautify your home and yard. After all, we could all use a little more color in our lives.
— (BPT)



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