ABC Blog

5 Ways to Freeze Out Bugs This Winter

Keeping your home pest-free so you can enjoy the cooler weather

Winter in Austin may not be a snowy wonderland, but it’s still cold enough to make the warmth of your home seem inviting to pests. From crawling insects to creeping rodents, here’s how to banish these intruders and take back control of the house.

Clear Yard Clutter

Pests hiding in outdoor messes can easily move indoors if you don’t clean up before winter. Clear the leaves out of gutters and sweep them off the porch. Move mulch away from the house and get rid of anything else that might provide a warm, damp haven for cold-weather pests.

Burn Bridges

While you don’t literally want to burn anything, it’s a good idea to check for overhanging tree branches and other potential gateways for pests to enter your home. Wood piles kept next to the house are another prime example of pest habitats. Relocate the wood … Read Full Post »

Solving the Mystery of Small Dirt Piles

What are worm castings, and how do they help with lawn care?

When digging around in your garden, you’ve probably come across worms making their way through the dirt. The more worms you see, the healthier the soil is likely to be, but why exactly is that?

What Goes In Must Come Out

As worms tunnel from one place to another, they munch on organic matter, process it, and excrete what are called castings. Also known as vermicast, this nutrient-rich “worm manure” can be produced in controlled settings and used as a rich natural fertilizer.

Benefits of Worm Castings

Vermicast offers many benefits for your Austin lawn and garden, including:

• Improved soil aeration
• Higher levels of beneficial micro-organisms
• Higher concentrations of bioavailable nutrients such as nitrogen, calcium and potash
• Better plant growth and yield with fewer diseases
• Stronger root systems
• Recycling waste products
• Natural, chemical-free fertilization
• Attraction of more worms to further improve soil health

In … Read Full Post »

Before and After a Freeze: Planned Plant Protection

Landscaping steps you can take before winter to keep your plants safe

Although the weather doesn’t often become frigid in San Antonio, temperatures can dip low enough to threaten the vegetation around your yard. Without proper preparation, this could mean losing the beautiful landscape you’ve worked so hard to maintain.

The Dangers of Frost

When plants are subject to freezing temperatures, ice crystals form inside their cells. This disrupts the flow of fluid and nutrients, causing leaves to shrivel. Sometimes the moisture in the air condenses on the plants and freezes on the surface, creating the same detrimental effect. The temperature at which vegetation freezes is measured with a hardiness rating and differs from plant to plant.

Covering Plants

Keeping plants covered on chilly nights works to combat the effects of frost. If the freeze is mild, a sheet or a blanket should do the job. When it gets colder, add a layer of plastic … Read Full Post »

Cool Facts About Bug Hibernation

Good, Bad and Beautiful Snoozers

There’s nothing like a blast of central Texas cold to eliminate summer pests from the scene, but they don’t all disappear when the chill sets in. Some insects sneak into your house, burrow into the lawn or tuck away deep inside trees. Three local bugs have mastered the snug art of hibernating through our coldest Austin winters.

The Good

It’s impossible not to smile when you spot a lady bug. Whether it’s a bright red specimen or a shiny yellow version, the beneficial insect is welcome in gardens throughout the area. The lady bug has a great reputation for keeping aphids and other flower-destroying pests under control, but the real credit goes to its larvae. Yes, the youngsters do all the work. This pretty beetle can become a problem when the temperatures drop. They can migrate into walls, attics and your home’s HVAC system.

The Bad

You won’t run across … Read Full Post »

Lawn Pests You Can’t Afford to Keep

What’s in your grass? You DO want to know

Your lawn is your curb appeal. It’s the darling of your green thumb, the reminder of carefree childhood days, the sense memory of plush comfort under bare feet and a hangout for pests that bite, dehydrate, excavate, and destroy.

Which of these isn’t like the others? We just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.

What’s bugging your lawn? San Antonio hosts a handful of pests capable of turning your grassy idyll into a lawn care nightmare. Learn more about our usual suspects.

Chinch bugs

Even the name is annoying. These winged insects suck the life out of your grass by removing the juices from individual blades, and their handiwork initially resembles drought damage. Chinch bugs adore St. Augustine grass, but they’ll occasionally snack on Bermuda and other species.

Fire ants

Ouch! These hot tamales won’t eat your grass, but they’ll leave you with a bite that’ll … Read Full Post »

What’s New in the World of Smart Appliances?

Perpetual connectivity is coming soon to your home

Is your home as tech-savvy as the 4% of American households currently using smart appliances? If you’re still only thinking about connecting the entire house to the Internet, don’t worry; 70% of homeowners are also in the planning stages. Here’s a taste of what you can expect when the wave of the future hits your home.

Smart Refrigerators

Gone are the days when having an ice maker in the refrigerator door was a novelty. Today’s smart refrigerators are able to keep track of the food you store inside and find recipes on the Internet that use those ingredients. Some, like the models from Samsung, can even interact with social media, much to the delight of Internet foodies.

Intuitive Washers

When you just can’t get the stubborn stains out of your clothes, a smart washer can connect to its manufacturer and download instructions for a specific cycle to … Read Full Post »

Is a Water Leak Driving Up Your Monthly Bill?

Tracking down stubborn leaks to save water and money

Hidden leaks around the house or in exterior infrastructure can sap your water supply and jack up your bills. If you suspect a leak, follow these steps to figure out where all that water is going and how to stop it.

Look at the Meter

Your water meter should have a leak detector that moves to indicate unwanted water usage. You can check this or read the meter, wait about an hour without using any water, then read it again. A change could indicate the presence of a leak.

Should you find a problem, shut off the water to your home from the main valve and go have another look at the leak indicator. An exterior leak will cause it to continue to move while no movement suggests a leak inside the house.

Check the Usual Suspects

Faucets and toilets are the most obvious sources of indoor … Read Full Post »

Brr! 4 Tips for a More Efficient Heating System This Winter

Mild year-long climate is one of the biggest benefits to living in sunny San Antonio, but even South Texas isn’t immune to occasional cold spells. Being far more used to complaining about unbearable heat than chilly temperatures, it’s no surprise that most of us aren’t prepared when the temperatures outside dip below the average. While getting through a few weeks of sweater weather is no big deal, putting your home’s heating system into high gear without notice is a sure way to push up your monthly energy bill. To avoid the unexpected expense this winter, copy our neighbors to the north by following the four easy energy-saving tips below:

1. Fatten up the insulation. Whether your home’s insulation is too thin or too old, it never hurts to give it a quick update before some of the coldest weeks of the year make a comeback. When you’re ready to get started, … Read Full Post »

The Battle Against Termites…and Their Farts

Termites are best known for their big appetites, but munching on your floorboards isn’t the only thing they do well. From familiar household dwellers to exotic colonies living in giant tropical mounds, different termites all around the world share the same embarrassing secret. Thanks to their insatiable taste for cellulose, the building block of plant life, termites can’t stop passing gas—a habit that may be polluting our planet.

The Link Between Termite Gas and Global Warming

We can’t smell termite gas, so what’s the big deal? At the heart of the issue is methane, the toxic compound termites release as part of their normal digestive functions. Odorless and colorless, methane belongs to a group of dangerous greenhouses gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, accelerating climate change and eventually causing irreversible environmental damage. On their own, termites don’t emit enough methane to cause a whole lot of harm, but as a global … Read Full Post »

Safely and Effectively Landscaping Around Ugly HVAC Units

They’re bulky, obvious and generally unappealing. They’re considered an unwelcome addition to your landscape, but getting rid of them isn’t an option. No, we’re not talking about your neighbors. We’re referring to your exterior HVAC units. Unfortunately, you can’t just throw a tarp over them, or place anything close enough to impede air circulation. Typically, a unit needs two or three feet of space free around it and at least one open access point for servicing. Although letting weeds or ivy engulf a unit seems tempting, it would cause serious and expensive problems. Using plants to hide a unit can be tricky if the unit blows hot air continuously. Fortunately, there are other ways to prevent the universal outdoor eyesore from ruining your garden’s ambiance.

Strategically Placed Focal Points

Although you may not be able to plant anything directly in front of your unit, a line of hearty, dense shrubs or privacy … Read Full Post »