Luca Trovato
When making salad for a large group, a good rule of thumb is to prepare about 3 ounces of salad per guest.
Dear Martha: The only thing that separates my living and dining rooms is an arch, so they feel almost like a single space. Should I paint them the same color?

Answer: I think you'll be much happier if you paint the rooms a single shade. The ceilings can contrast slightly with the walls, but a monochromatic color scheme will keep the spaces from feeling too busy.

You can then use furniture and accessories to bring in additional tones. Fabric is very useful for this, and it's a nice way to enhance the harmony between the rooms. For example, you might repeat the pattern from the dining room chairs in the living room curtains or pillows.

Dear Martha: Sometimes soil is very sandy. What can be done about it?

Answer: Soil has formed over many millennia through the weathering of rock and the decomposition of plant life, so changing its makeup isn't easy. Before you tackle the problem, consider why the soil is sandy in the first place. The issue isn't limited to coastal communities. Sandy soil is found inland, too, where glaciers deposited large washes of sand long ago.

If the soil is inherently sandy, your best option is not to fight the fact but to work with it. Many plants thrive in sandy, free-draining soil. If you are determined to grow plants that won't tolerate these conditions, such as many vegetables, delphiniums and peonies, you will need to do so in raised beds filled with purchased topsoil. Although the beds require an initial investment of time and resources, they're long lasting and suited to many types of plants.

In some locations, erosion has caused soil to become sandy. Because sand particles are among the heaviest soil components, lighter-weight particles, such as organic matter and silt, are gradually washed or blown away, leaving only sand. If wind is to blame, you could plant a windbreak of trees to protect your property. Treating water-caused erosion is trickier, as it could be from flooding, irrigation or channeled rainfall from a nearby mountain or cliff.

In each case, you should consult your municipality to see what you can do legally to protect your property. A common strategy is to plant trees, shrubs and grasses with quick-growing root systems that will stabilize the soil.

As for amending sandy soil, one technique is to mix copious amounts of organic matter into at least the top 4 inches. This will increase the water- and nutrient-retaining capabilities of the soil, eventually giving it the loose, crumbly consistency of loam. The one thing you should never add to sandy soil is clay. In fact, sand and clay are two of the main ingredients in concrete, and that's pretty much what you'll end up with.

Dear Martha: I'm providing the salad for a picnic with about 100 guests. How much should I prepare?

Answer: When making salad for a large group, the rule of thumb is about 3 ounces per person. Some greens weigh more than others, however, so you'll need to tailor this figure to the specific recipe.

For example, to prepare Caesar salad for a crowd of 100, start with about 20 pounds of romaine lettuce, which translates into 15 heads. A bunch of spinach, a rugged green that's good for summer salads, weighs about as much as a head of romaine. If the recipe calls for mixed field greens, you'll need 12 pounds to 14 pounds of loose mesclun (which weighs less because there are no cores).

All greens wilt when dressed, so it's best to divide them into several large serving bowls and add the dressing only as more salad is needed, or serve the dressing on the side.

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