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Central Texas Gardening: Your Ultimate Guide

Central Texas gardening

Look around Austin and the Texas Hill Country and you can see that this area is teeming with plant life. Trees like the Texas Ash, Cedar Elm and Arroyo Sweetwood. Shrubs like Bottlebrush and Pineapple Guavas. Flowers, yuccas, ornamental grasses and vines.

So why is it so hard to grow anything in your own yard?

Flowers wilt. Veggies never seem to get started. Even those bushes you planted in the front several years ago have barely shown any growth.

Yet somehow, your neighbors’ plants are doing just fine. It’s embarrassing. What are the secrets to Central Texas gardening?

First off, take a deep breath and stop beating yourself up so much. Setting up and maintaining a garden in and around the Hill Country is tough.

That lush plant life you see around the area? Mother Nature had to work hard for that, carefully helping plants to adapt to the rugged Central Texas landscape. And your neighbors? … Read Full Post »

Swimming Pool Bugs: Types and Risks They Pose

Swimming pool bugs types

On a hot summer afternoon, it’s nice to take a dip in the pool for a brief respite from the southern heat. One day, your relaxation is interrupted by a sharp, stinging sensation. Startled, you quickly jump out of the water, then peer into your pool from the edge until you find them: water bugs.

Apparently, they sting. Or bite. Clearly, they need to go.

What should you do?

The first thing you need to realize is you’re likely to find all kinds of bugs and insects in your pool from time to time. Everything from spiders to caterpillars to ants can make their way into your pool water. Bugs are everywhere, and just like people, they can take a wrong turn and slip and fall.

These aren’t the kinds of bugs you need to worry about in your pool. While you certainly don’t want to end up swimming with a wasp, you also … Read Full Post »

Texas Native Trees: Species That Thrive In Our Climate

Texas Native Trees

Trees add to the aesthetics of your property, help reduce energy costs and improve your home’s value. But which trees are, in fact, best suited for the extreme heat and dry conditions we often experience here in Texas?

Many homeowners aren’t sure which types of trees have adapted to our climate. They may also not realize that planting these species on your property can reduce your water bills, decrease the time you spend on maintenance and lower the risk of a tree’s limbs falling because of stress from drought. Keep reading to learn more about Texas native trees, the fastest growing shade trees in Texas, Texas evergreen trees, Texas flowering trees and the most common trees in Texas.

Texas Native Trees: Low Maintenance Additions To Your Landscape

A recent study reported that about 90% of the trees found in Austin are native. The survey put the final tally of the number of trees … Read Full Post »

Home Automation Benefits: Is A Smart Home For You?

Home Automation Benefits

It can seem like every appliance these days is preceded by the word ‘smart’: smart TVs, smart thermostats, smart lighting, smart entertainment system…the list goes on. Though we use a smartphone throughout the day, and a growing number of homes now have voice assistants, many of us who don’t fall into the “early adopter” category aren’t quite sure what a fully-integrated “smart home” could mean for our households. Others among us are skeptical about security surrounding these devices, and many of us only have a basic understanding of how this technology works. Some homeowners who haven’t jumped on the bandwagon are hesitant to really consider a smart home system because they worry about how hard they are to set up.

Let’s explore the potential that smart home technology can help you become more energy-efficient and other home automation benefits, what exactly is involved if you are considering turning your house into a … Read Full Post »

Soldier Termite: Winning the Battle Against These Pests

Soldier termite

Termites. They’re one of the worst fears of every homeowner, for good reason.

Catch an infestation too late and your house can literally be eaten away from beneath you, costing you time, stress and a lot of money. All told, termite damage costs Americans billions of dollars every year, with additional billions being spent to get rid of them.

How can you protect yourself against these high costs and win the fight against termites?

Know your enemy.

In this post, you can learn all about soldier termites and the role that they have in subterranean colonies.

When you have a better understanding of what you’re up against, you’ll be far more successful at combating these incredibly destructive pests.

The Role of the Soldier Termite

Bee colonies have workers and drones and a queen. Ant colonies follow a similar structure, with a single queen, workers and males who only mate with future queens.

A termite colony is a bit … Read Full Post »

Rats vs. Mice: Which Pest Is Invading Your Home?

rats vs mice

In a battle between rats vs. mice, rats will win. Known as muricide, rats will kill and eat mice out of hunger. That said, do you really care which species of rodent is scurrying across your floor or making scratching sounds in your walls or attic? Probably not.

The reason you should care about the differences between mice and rats is that your pest control efforts will vary, depending on which type of rodent you have and which species. For example, catching and killing rats and mice are different. A trap for a mouse won’t work on a rat and vice versa. Where you set the traps can also make a big difference in how effective your efforts are, whether you have a roof rat or Norway rat problem.

How are these pesky pests different? We’ll explore the many ways these animals are distinct so that you can better devise … Read Full Post »

Ask a Handyman: Should You Grout or Caulk Around Tub?

Grout or caulk around tub

Grout and caulk are two completely different substances, each with its own use and function. If you live in a home with an older bathroom, you may use one (or both) to make a repair or install a new bathtub, toilet or fixture. Do you know when you should use grout or caulk around your tub?

Grout is a mixture of water, cement, sand and sometimes fine gravel. This paste can be tinted different colors and is often used between tiles. Grout keeps water out and gives your walls and floors a cleaner look. Grout requires a crevice to “hold onto” and can prevent tile edges from chipping. Since grout doesn’t contain latex, it can crack with movement. Years of use can leave grout looking discolored and dirty.

On the other hand, caulk is silicone, acrylic or latex-based, so it’s both flexible and waterproof. Caulk is strong enough and pliable enough to adhere … Read Full Post »

Carpenter Ants vs Fire Ants—Which is Which?

Carpenter ants vs fire ants

Because of their size, identifying ants can be difficult. Some ant species can only be accurately classified by a pest control professional or under a microscope. However, if you know some key characteristics of different types of ants, you can usually determine which variety you are seeing in your yard or inside your home. Knowing how to distinguish carpenter ants vs fire ants can help you protect your home and your family from painful bites and the damage these pests can do. While carpenter ants are wood-destroying insects, capable of impacting your home’s property value, fire ants inflict their damage through bites that can become swollen, itchy and unpleasant.

Keep reading to learn how to identify carpenter ants, several different species of house ants, types of ants that bite, and, perhaps most importantly, how to get rid of ants in a room.

Carpenter Ants Identification

Carpenter ants are very common in Texas … Read Full Post »

What Can a Handyman Legally Do?

What Can a Handyman Legally Do

What if you could get all of those little tasks on your “honey-do” list completed without having to lift a finger?

Home repairs, maintenance and weekend projects can quickly eat up all your free time. It’s only natural that homeowners are looking for ways to outsource these tasks at the lowest possible price. Depending on the nature of the tasks involved, you may find yourself wondering which jobs are suitable for a handyman and which tasks are better performed by a licensed contractor. Since virtually anyone can call themselves a handyman, you might ask yourself, “What can a handyman legally do?” Is there a real difference between the training and skills of a handyman and a contractor? What type of jobs should you hire a handyman to complete? Some homeowners have an even more basic question: What is a handyman in the first place?

A handyman may be a jack-of-all-trades or … Read Full Post »

How to Get Rid of Aphids on Christmas Tree

How to Get Rid of Aphids on Christmas Tree

During the holiday season, thoughts of yummy food, a fire in the fireplace, warm sweaters, cute boots and spending time with family and friends fill your head and heart. The months around Christmas evoke warm and fuzzy feelings from treasured memories and family traditions. A freshly-cut Christmas tree fills your home with a welcoming, nostalgic aroma. The excitement and anticipation surrounding your visit to find the perfect tree may only be matched by the enthusiasm around the arrival of favorite family members and guests who come to stay. While we prepare to welcome these house guests, we don’t want to have to deal with creepy crawly, uninvited visitors. 

Like any live plant, Christmas trees can suffer from diseases, including root rot, Swiss needle cast and insect infestations. When you bring such a large once-living tree into your home, you can sometimes also bring in creatures who hitch a ride. One of the most common … Read Full Post »