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When you moved into your home, you realized that you had a lot of room to grow—quite literally—in the tree department. You probably expected that over time, your trees would provide you with much-needed shade on a hot summer day, a reduction in your utility bills and an improvement to your curb appeal.

So, what if that wasn’t the case? What if you now want to make up lost time so that you can enjoy the benefits of having trees on your property?

Below, we will explore which fast-growing trees tend to grow the best in southern states—USDA Zones 6-10—and divide them up by type. We’ll also provide you with important information about what conditions create optimal growth so that you can add these valuable plants to your landscape.

Fast-Growing Trees For Privacy

One of the biggest reasons people graduate from apartments to houses is to get more privacy. While a fence is nice, most of the time they leave a lot of the yard visible. No one wants to head out to the backyard if they feel like neighbors can watch their every move.

That’s where trees come in. With the right kind of trees, you can essentially put up a living wall between yards, if you so wish.

The tree species identified here both offer fantastic privacy and fast growth, making them optimal for dealing with prying eyes both quickly and effectively.

Leyland Cypress

These trees grow very well in Zones 6-10, making them perfect for pretty much anywhere in the American south.

Leyland Cypresses grow incredibly quickly: about three to five feet per year. At maturity, these trees can be anywhere from 40-60 feet high and 20-25 feet wide.

If you want a privacy hedge, plant this variety of cypress about eight feet apart. If you’re looking for something that looks less like a solid wall, you can spread them out more.

Make sure these plants are in an area that gets plenty of sunlight and can put down roots in well-drained, rich soil. The optimal pH is between five and eight. Plant in mid-fall, if possible, when the trees are dormant.

If you prefer to create a pruned Leyland Cypress hedge, allow the trees to grow about a foot higher than you want the hedge to be. Top them about six inches below that height, then prune every summer to maintain that height.

Wax Myrtle

Rated for Zones 7-11, the Wax Myrtle range covers most of the southern U.S. This tree tolerates both droughts and heat and can even grow in infertile soil (as well as both moist and dry soil).

The Wax Myrtle grows as much as 5 feet per year. The maximum size this variety tends to get is about 20 feet tall.

While they are incredibly low-maintenance, Wax Myrtles benefit greatly from proper fertilization and watering and should be planted about 10 feet apart.

Yaupon Holly

A tough North American native, Yaupon Holly trees do well in Zones 7 through 9, thriving along both coasts, as well as across the southern states. This tree is routinely used for topiaries, screens and barriers. You can even see this tree in urban areas, parking lots and medians.

When this type of evergreen reaches maturity, it will grow to be somewhere between 15 and 25 feet tall and about the same width. Yaupon hollies take about ten years to reach this size.

To start this plant off right, choose a spot that will receive either part or full sun. If you want a tree which produces berries, choose a female plant. You won’t need to plant this tree any differently than other trees, but you will need to prune sprouts twice or three times each year to keep the base looking tidy.

Fast-Growing Evergreen Trees

Notice anything about the privacy trees above? Many of them are evergreens!

Because of that, we’ll keep this section short, but just know that there are plenty of evergreens to choose from, including the varieties we’ve already discussed.

Japanese Cedar

The national tree of Japan, this roughly pyramid-shaped evergreen can be grown from Zones 5-9.

You can expect robust growth of around 3-4 feet each year if you choose to add a Japanese Cedar to your landscape.

Depending on the variety, you want to plant this tree in an area with sun to partial shade, or stronger shade. Water quite a bit at planting and over the first week. Then make sure to soak it every week over the summer, unless you’re getting more than an inch of rain. Depending on your desired size and look, you can space them anywhere from 5-20 feet apart.

Thuja Green Giant

Hardy from Zones 5-9, the Green Giant resists insects and droughts and can be planted in all soil types.

You can expect this type of tree to grow around three feet per year.

You’ll want to break the soil up about 12 inches deep when planting to give the Giant’s root ball room to branch out. If you want a privacy fence, use a rototiller to break up a section of soil about 12 inches deep and three feet wide, and base your length on the number of trees you’re planting. You’ll want to space the trees about 6 feet apart.

Thujas need lots of water in the beginning. In warm weather, water every day for the first two weeks. You can then switch to every other day in cooler weather, then cut back to once a week for the remainder of the first year.

Fast-Growing Fruit Trees

Fruit trees can be wonderful in your yard for a variety of reasons—not the least of which is the fact that you’ll get some delicious fruit every year! 

Black Cherry

A black cherry tree will do well anywhere from Zone 3 to Zone 9.

These fruit trees grow about three feet per year.

These trees tend to like the sun, but they can handle some shade as well. Keep them well away from any walkways, though, because when their fruits drop, they tend to stain.

Plant these trees about 8 to12 feet apart in rich soil and add a layer of mulch about six inches from the trunk. As they grow, keep checking to make sure the soil stays on the acidic side.

Avocado

Haas and Fuerte avocado trees grow best in Zones 9 and 10, which make them perfect for southern Texas and Florida.

You can expect avocado trees to grow around three feet a year.

We’ll focus on Haas trees, since they are popular. Find a location with full sun that is sheltered from the wind and has well-drained soil. These trees are best planted between March and June.

Water immediately and frequently, around two to three times a week with two to five gallons at each watering for most of the first year. You’ll also want to add gypsum around the tree, as well as mulch and fertilizer.

Meyer Lemon Tree

These lemon trees grow well in Zones 8-11.

In the early years, Meyer lemon trees grow as much as four feet per year. Graft a tree and you can have lemons in as little as two years. Grow from a seed, and your plant will reach maturity in four to seven years.

While Meyer lemon trees need at least six hours of sunlight, the best location will be one that lets in morning sun but offers some shade in the afternoon. Use moist, but well-draining soil, and add high nitrogen or specialty citrus fertilizer monthly, except in the fall and winter.

Fast-Growing Shade Trees For Small Yards

If there’s one thing southern yards need, it’s protection from the scorching summertime sun. Shade trees in Texas and other southern states can turn your yard from a no-go zone into a lush paradise for the family—all while lowering your electric bill.

Red Maple

Southern homeowners will be happy to learn that the red maple thrives in every part of the south, except for the southernmost tip of Florida. Listed as appropriate for Zones 4-9.

These trees grow pretty fast. How fast, exactly? You can expect growth of around three to five feet per year, topping out at around 40 feet.

The red maple is fairly hardy and adaptable. This variety typically grows well in light conditions that vary from full sun to partial shade and soil that ranges from sand to clay (so long as it’s well drained).

The biggest drawback for some southern homeowners is that it only has a moderate drought resistance, which can be problematic.

Lemon Bottlebrush

This gorgeous tree, which attracts hummingbirds, is best suited for Zones 9 and 10.

Compared to many other trees on this list, the Lemon Bottlebrush doesn’t grow that fast. You can expect it to grow anywhere from 10-15 inches per year. So, why include it? Because it’s on the smaller side (topping out around 25 feet) and tolerant of both drought and heat, making it ideal for many southern yards. Plus, the red flowers it bears are gorgeous. And, you know, hummingbirds.

Here’s what you need to add this tree to your yard: a sunny, well-drained location. Beyond that, Lemon Bottlebrush doesn’t really care. Even watering is comparatively minimal. Once a week when they’re young and if there’s no rain, then you can taper off. Mulch over the root zone can help as well, but it’s not necessary. You shouldn’t even worry about fertilizing until the second season.

Southern Catalpa

This tree is rated for Zones 5-9, and is well-known as an “old-fashioned” shade tree in much of the southeast.

This variety grows slightly faster than Lemon Bottlebrush at 12-15” per year—so not super-fast. This plant also produces white flowers that smell when crushed, as well as bean pods that will fall seasonally.

If you’re looking for a good southern shade tree, the Catalpa has thick, dense foliage, and its flowers are gorgeous and fragrant in the spring. Catalpas are also very low maintenance (beyond the cleanup required for fallen flowers and seedpods).

To get this tree well-established, find a spot with full sunlight or partial shade, make sure the soil has strong drainage (ideally with a pH between 5.5 and 6) and water only when the surface of the soil is dry. At maturity, you can water even less.

ABC Can Add Fast-Growing Trees To Your Landscape

There are countless factors that go into choosing the right trees for your property. What are your goals? How fast do you want the growth to be? How much space do you have? How much sun? What kind of soil? While you can certainly do your own research and plant trees on your own, that’s a lot to take on if you’ve never done it before. Worse, it’s an expensive mistake if things don’t go as planned. If you want to add Texas native trees or want to make sure you get the right trees the first time—and provide them with the best chance to grow quickly—why not turn to the experts? The tree experts at ABC Home & Commercial Services know what it takes to get the best growth under different types of conditions. We can do the heavy lifting so that your yard can get the facelift you want. 

The post Fast Growing Trees: Which Types Best Fit Your Needs? appeared first on ABC Home & Commercial Services Blog.

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What do cow manure, grass clippings, dead leaves, coffee grounds and dinner scraps have in common? All of the above can be used to create or feed a compost pile, which you can then use in your garden to help keep your trees, plants, vegetable crops and soil healthy and thriving. Planting with compost is easy, as long as you know what you’re doing. Ready to learn everything you need to know about how to make and use compost in your garden? You came to the right place!

First, let’s talk about what compost is and what it’s used for. At its most basic, compost is simply partially decomposed organic matter—in other words, plant and other material that is nutrient-rich because it’s in the process of breaking down. Gardeners use compost to add important nutrients and microbes to the soil, in order to build its structure and help plants thrive. If you live in an area that has clay-like soil consistency, for example, compost can improve your dirt in by loosening it up. This helps water drain off more efficiently and makes the soil better suited for growing plants. If your area has sandy soil, on the other hand, compost can improve it by helping it retain water better. The right kind and amount of compost can also help reduce diseases and pests, and may also reduce the need for fertilizer.

Manure-based composts tend to have higher amounts of phosphorous, while plant-based compost—the kind you create when you toss kitchen scraps along with yard clippings into a pile of dirt in the corner of your garden—tends to be higher in nitrogen. That’s good for your garden; most home garden plots don’t want as much phosphorous as manure will provide. There isn’t much risk of excess nitrogen in soil, since it can easily be washed away by rain or converted into air. Phosphorous, on the other hand, moves through soil much more slowly, which means excess levels of this nutrient can really build up, making plants more vulnerable to pests and disease.

When deciding what types of compost to use in your yard, practical considerations may also enter the equation. Perhaps you start composting oak leaves simply to take advantage of how many fall into your yard when your trees shed their leaves. You may realize that you don’t have the time or the space to dedicate to turning these materials into rich soil. On the other hand, putting your kitchen scraps into a container outside may get you better (and quicker) results.

Let’s say you have moved beyond this stage and have an endless supply of compost and are not quite sure how to best use it. Now, you can explore the best ways to use compost to derive the most benefit for your plants and yard.

Planting In Compost Without Soil: Savvy Or Short-Sighted?

Most people see brown stuff on the ground outside and think of it as dirt, no matter what it might actually be composed of. That’s actually an error in thinking: Though they’re both brown and crumbly, compost is definitely not the same thing as dirt, and it’s certainly not a stand-in for soil. Certain types and compositions of compost can be appropriate for planting without soil, but you have to check the nutrient composition and consider the particular needs of what you plan to add into your yard or garden before making that decision.

In general, compost is a beneficial addition to most types of soil, whether your goal is to grow vegetables, flowers or other ornamental plants, but the compost should be only a small proportion of the “dirt” you’re planting in. This is because, with compost, a little goes a long way. Too much can create problems, especially if you’re using a manure-based variety. Using plant-based compost is best for most home gardening needs. A general rule of thumb is to spread just an inch or two per year on your garden beds, or up to three inches on a vegetable plot (since vegetables undergo regular harvesting, which removes more nutrients from the soil).

Growing Tomatoes In Compost: Can It Work?

Though compost is typically a better addition to soil than an alternative to it, there can be exceptions to that rule (“can” being the keyword here). Tomatoes are one crop that has been known to grow rather well in pure compost. Many home gardeners have reported volunteer tomato plants that reared up out of their compost piles after tomatoes with seeds were tossed into the pile. Instead of simply becoming part of the compost, as intended, the seeds germinated and grew into plants.

Growing tomatoes in compost on purpose may not be a good idea, however, unless you’re simply wanting to experiment, and you don’t mind if your plants end up weak, non-producing or even dying. Many varieties of tomato plants grow to be quite tall, and they need external support even in regular soil. Tomatoes grown in pure compost are almost certain to need stakes, cages or some other type of scaffolding since compost has such a crumbly, almost fluffy consistency as compared to the density of regular soil. Plants that grow tall or develop deep-reaching root structures, or both, just aren’t well suited for compost-only planting, since they’re likely to fall over as they mature.

Growing Vegetables In Pure Compost: Crazy Or Inspired?

Again, as a general rule, growing vegetables in pure compost isn’t a good idea except purely as an experiment (since sometimes it can work out!). Most plants simply need more structure, water retention and nutrients than compost alone can provide. There are certain crops, however, that can do well when planted in pure compost.

Along with tomatoes, as discussed above, pumpkins and squash are two other crops that can do well growing in pure compost. Squash plants are more sprawling than tall, growing close to the ground along vines, and they need well-draining soil. Both of these factors make them better suited for growing in pure compost than many other crop varieties. If you decide to grow pumpkins, squash or other crops in this way, be sure to water often, since pure compost can dry out too quickly for many types of plants.

Can I Use Compost Instead Of Soil?

As we’ve explored above, under a few scenarios it is possible to use compost instead of soil in planting, but it’s generally not advisable. Another reason that pure compost often isn’t conducive to growing plants is that it gets too hot internally, as the organic matter comprising it breaks down over time. Any plant that grows well in compost is going to be one that tolerates heat well, doesn’t grow too tall or heavy and thrives in well-draining soil.

If you do plan to plant anything in pure compost without adding any other soil, it’s a good idea to have your compost tested to measure its nutrient ratios and pH level. The optimal pH level for growing most vegetables is between 6.0 and 7.0; you can check levels yourself with a handheld pH meter to see if your compost might be suitable.

If you’re going to use compost instead of soil, you should also make sure to use only fully processed compost. This means it should be black and crumbly with a sweet, rich, earthy scent. Compost that contains identifiable food scraps or that has an acidic smell to it isn’t fully processed yet, and should not be used for planting.

Planting Compost Crops

Certain plants make great “compost crops”—plants a gardener grows specifically to help build a highly nutrient-dense and beneficial compost pile. This organic gardening method is often called “biodynamic gardening,” and its focus is on creating a superior compost from the start. If you want to try this method, you can devote any portion of your garden to compost crops that make sense for your space and your gardening needs.

Alfalfa and red clover make good compost crops, as both these plants will contribute beneficial minerals to your compost pile. You can plant either of these along the perimeter of your garden or in between rows of plants, and toss their clippings into your compost pile over time. Yellow clover is another good option that will contribute nitrogen not only to your compost pile but also to the soil where its roots are growing. Just be sure to plant yellow clover out of the way, as it could over-shade other nearby plants as it grows to its full height.

Comfrey and borage are two good herbs for compost crops, as they add zinc and phosphorous to the soil and to your compost pile via clippings. They also attract butterflies and bees. If you’re looking for a good compost crop for overwintering your garden, try winter rye. If you plant it in late fall or at the end of your garden’s harvesting season, it will protect the soil through the winter from cold, ice and snow, and add nutrients to the soil until spring, when it’s time to plant again. At that point, you can mow down the rye and compost the clippings, or simply till the soil thoroughly to make it ready for your new crops.

ABC Can Help With All Your Gardening and Landscape Needs

Gardening can be a fun, relaxing way to add beauty to your landscape along with fresh and nutritious food to your table, and composting plays an important role in any type of home garden. But if the idea of building a compost pile or Central Texas gardening challenges in general seem too daunting, ABC Home & Commercial Services can help. Remember, we’re just a phone call away. Our landscape and gardening experts will be happy to shoulder the labor of building and maintaining the garden of your dreams, so you can simply relax and enjoy its beauty and bounty.

The post Planting With Compost: Expert Advice From The Pros appeared first on ABC Home & Commercial Services Blog.

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Ever seen a jumping spider? Chances are, if you live in Texas you have—and seeing it move so quickly in its trademark jerky, hopping manner probably either made you lean closer in curiosity or gave you the shock of your life, if not both. There are a few things about a jumping spider Texas homeowners need to know: For starters, these little critters are no scarier than any other eight-legged arachnid. They’re just startling because they move so far, so quickly! Their appearance may seem a bit threatening, however. When crossing paths with one of these, any reasonable person might wonder, do jumping spiders bite? Let’s find out more about the jumping spider to learn where they live, whether they bite people and what to do when you find them living in your home.

Do Jumping Spiders Bite?

Before we discuss whether jumping spiders bite, let’s first learn how to identify these critters. They are somewhat small; many species of adult jumping spiders reach only about a half-centimeter or less in length, while other, larger species might grow just a bit larger than that, reaching a half-inch or so. Jumping spiders have fuzzy bodies that are gray or black, usually with spots on their abdomens that may be white, orange or red. A jumping spider’s head is typically large for its body and maybe even larger than its abdomen. Some species of jumping spider have a blue spot on their heads, but most have heads that are all black or gray in color.

Jumping spiders’ eyes are very unique. They have eight eyes total, six of which are positioned around the head to give the spider a 360-degree view of its surroundings. The other two eyes are larger than the others and are set at the front of the spider’s head, and are pretty uniquely formed: They are essentially a tube, less than a millimeter long, that is topped with a lens and filled with a clear gel that functions as a second lens. This eye structure acts like a tiny pair of binoculars, giving the jumping spider very good three-dimensional vision. Only two other types of animal—chameleons and falcons—are known to have eyes formed in this same way. The jumping spider’s eyes allow it to track its prey with accuracy and efficiency, so it can pounce on it, grab it and bite into it for a meal.

As for their prey, jumping spiders typically eat insects like caterpillars and bugs; sometimes, they also eat other spiders. Fortunately, they do not feed on humans. If disturbed—for example, if poked or squeezed by a human—a jumping spider may bite in self-defense, but their bites are harmless. Even if a small child or pet is bitten by a jumping spider, the spider’s bite is not venomous and therefore shouldn’t be harmful. Certain people might have a minor reaction to a jumping spider bite, such as itching or irritation at the site of the bite, but symptoms like these aren’t common and shouldn’t last long.

Where Do Jumping Spiders Live?

Various species of jumping spiders are found all over the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Believe it or not, there are over 100 species of jumping spider in Texas alone! The most common type of jumping spider is the bold jumping spider.

Interestingly, you won’t find jumping spiders in a web, as they don’t spin, live in or catch food with webs. Instead, they hunt for their prey on foot, during the daytime. Female jumping spiders do spin silk to build a nest, called a retreat, for hiding in while they lay eggs and then for protecting the eggs until they hatch into baby spiderlings.

These retreats, which look like small, soft, white, fuzzy masses, are often spun in secure spots like in dry plant leaves or against the crevices of rocks. Adult jumping spiders might use these retreats in the winter along with their eggs and spiderlings to stay warm and safe until warmer weather returns. Jumping spiders can also spin a single thread of silk to use for safety, similar to a tether line, when they’re exploring or jumping a particularly far distance.

Jumping spiders typically live on plants that have broad leaves, like milkweed, or on wood such as tree trunks, fence posts or the siding on houses, garages or barns.

What Species Is A Small Jumping Spider?

A small jumping spider is just one of many jumping spider species (again, there are over 100 species of this type of spider in Texas alone). Some species of jumping spider are brown, while others are black, and most have tiny hairs all over their bodies and legs. Jumping spiders are typically pretty small; as we already mentioned, most species of this spider do not get much larger than a quarter-inch to a half-inch long, though the females of some species might reach as large as three-quarters of an inch in length. Almost all jumping spiders have two front legs that are longer and heavier than their other legs, which makes them look like tiny bodybuilders—quite in keeping with their ability to jump distances many times their own size.

Which Texas Spider Species Should Homeowners Avoid?

While jumping spiders and tarantulas in Texas are not much of a threat to homeowners, there are two main Texas spider species that are of real concern, especially for people with children and pets: the black widow and the brown recluse. Both of these spiders are venomous, with bites that can make people very ill (black widow bites have even been known to cause death on rare occasion). If you’ve ever lived in Texas, there’s a good chance you’ve at least heard of these two types of spider, if not actually encountered them face to face.

Black widow spiders are renowned for their venomous bite, which can make people very sick. They are also known for the creepy fact that the females often consume the males after mating (hence their name). Female black widows have black bodies that are about a half-inch long, and long, black legs; they also have telltale markings on the underside of their large, bulbous abdomens. Usually reddish-orange but sometimes yellow, these markings might be in the shape of an hourglass or just a simple dot.

Male black widows are smaller than their female counterparts, and they don’t have the large abdomen or the all-black coloring of female black widows. Instead, the males of this species are rather slim, with mottled gray or brown coloring. Males are also not as venomous as females. Fortunately, black widows aren’t aggressive toward humans; they generally bite people only when they are surprised or disturbed. Their bites can be serious, though, and typically cause swelling at the site of the bite along with muscle aches and weakness, nausea, headaches, and vomiting.

Similar to black widows, brown recluse spiders are about a half-inch long, with narrow abdomens and long legs. They range from sand-brown to dark-brown in color, with a slightly darker spot at the center of their abdomens. They also have a distinctive darker-brown marking on their heads that many people say is shaped like a violin. Another common Texas spider, the grass spider, is often mistaken for a brown recluse. While grass spiders are a similar color, size and shape to brown recluses, they have distinctive dark-brown stripes on their backs instead of the smooth coloring of the brown recluse, and their bodies are narrower and more angular in shape.

Brown recluse bites may sting at first, and over the course of several hours, they start to become more and more uncomfortable. The area around the bite might become discolored or form a blister. Other symptoms of a brown recluse bite include fever and nausea, along with itching and muscle pain. The venom injected when a brown recluse spider bites a person can be strong enough that it actually causes tissue damage around the site of the bite; occasionally, a person will have a brown recluse bite serious enough that a skin graft is needed.

Both black widow and brown recluse spiders tend to make their homes in dark, protected spaces, such as wood and rock piles, behind or beneath furniture or inside boxes of old items in storage. For this reason, it’s smart to be careful and wear gloves when poking around in areas like these. If you do suspect you’ve been bitten by one of these spiders, ice the area and get to a medical professional as soon as possible for diagnosis and medication, if needed.

Scared Of Spiders? ABC Can Help!

It’s no surprise that after discovering a jumping spider, black widow, brown recluse, or even a wolf spider, Texas homeowners most often have the initial urge to run in the opposite direction. Fortunately, unlike black widows and brown recluses, jumping spiders are essentially harmless to humans (aside from the sense of shock they might cause when leaping quickly from one spot to another!). Since they eat insects as well as other spiders, jumping spiders might even be considered less of a pest and more of a helpful critter to have around. Most people, of course, don’t want jumping spiders or any other type of spider inside their homes. So what should you do if you find jumping spiders in your living space?

If you have unwelcome arachnid housemates that you’d like to get rid of, call on ABC Home & Commercial Services. An indoor spider problem is generally a sign of an insect problem in general. At ABC, our pest control experts are experienced in eliminating all types of unwanted pests, including jumping spiders. We can treat your home and other living spaces for spiders as well as for the insects they’re feeding on, to ensure that you won’t have to deal with creepy-crawly critters any longer.

The post Jumping Spider: Texas Homeowners’ Questions Answered appeared first on ABC Home & Commercial Services Blog.

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When the sun is out and temperatures are brutally high, homeowners know that it’s critical to have a working air conditioner. Without a properly functioning AC, when summer temperatures rise into the 90s and 100s, you are not just uncomfortable indoors—it can actually be dangerous for humans and household pets, not to mention potentially harmful to your appliances and electronics. So what should you do if your AC suddenly stops working?

When your AC isn’t functioning well—or at all—it may be due to a problem that requires an experienced professional to fix. Certain common AC issues, such as a broken capacitor, are risky for inexperienced DIYers to try handling themselves; even cleaning your own AC condenser coils carries the risk of shorting out your unit. There are certain things, however, that the average homeowner can do to troubleshoot a problem with an air conditioner and resolve an issue on their own. If there is no air coming out of vents in one room only, for example, it’s good to know what might be causing the issue, so you can make an educated decision about whether to call in the pros or try taking a more DIY approach.

No Air Coming Out Of Vents In One Room? Troubleshooting Tips

The problem with a malfunctioning AC unit is that you probably won’t know about the problem until it’s hot outside. When you turn on the AC to cool things down indoors, only to find it’s not working properly, you need it fixed as soon as possible! The problem may be due to a broken component in your AC system, but it also could be the result of improper maintenance. Maintaining your AC is essential to keeping it in proper working order. Keep in mind that twice-yearly checks by an HVAC professional are an inexpensive and highly effective way to prevent common problems from occurring. Being proactive about your air conditioner will save you money in the long run.

If your AC is not working properly, there are a few things to check immediately, before you even begin to troubleshoot your particular issue. The following advice applies if your AC is not working at all. These tips are also relevant if your AC is running but the air coming out of the vents isn’t cool, if there’s no air coming out of vents in one room or if you’re experiencing low air flow through the vents in your house. In short, no matter what specific AC problem you might be having, you should always make sure of the following first:

  1. Double check to confirm that the AC is turned on at the thermostat, and that it is switched to “cool” rather than to “fan” or “heat.” This may sound basic, but it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking your AC is malfunctioning when it’s simply switched off or to the wrong setting!
  2. Check the thermostat settings to ensure the AC is set to a temperature that is lower than the ambient temperature inside the house. If you may have mistakenly set your system to a higher temperature, your system won’t know to begin cooling the space.
  3. Make sure all windows and doors to the outside are closed. Even just one or two open windows can bring in enough heat to result in your AC struggling to cool your indoor space.
  4. Clean or replace the filter, if needed. A dirty AC filter can greatly restrict airflow, which can have a big impact on your AC’s ability to cool your home efficiently. Severely dirty air filters can even cause your unit’s coils to freeze over.

Assuming your AC is turned on and is set to “cool” at a temperature lower than the ambient temperature in your home, all doors and windows are closed and your AC filters are clean and in good working order, it’s time to explore the possible reasons why you no air is coming out of vents in one room in your house.

If there is no air coming out of the vents in only one room of the house, make sure the registers in that room are fully open and are not blocked by furniture or any other obstruction. If the registers are open and clear of any obstructions, and if a bit of cold air is coming out but only very weakly, it may be that this particular room is farthest away from the AC unit. The rooms closest to the unit will receive the strongest and coldest air flow, while those farthest away will unfortunately get the weakest air flow. One way to balance out the air flow to all the rooms in your house is to close the vents in the cooler rooms partway. This forces more air to the warmer rooms that aren’t receiving as much cold air through the vents.

Another possibility is that something is blocking either the register from the inside or the ductwork that leads to the register. You can try using a screwdriver to remove the register yourself and peer inside, but if you can’t see anything obviously blocking the flow of air, you’ll need to either inspect the ductwork yourself—which often requires a trip up to the attic—or, better yet, hire a professional to conduct the inspection for you. A professional knows how HVAC systems work and can snake a camera into your ductwork to find any spots where there is a blockage or where the ductwork has collapsed, preventing the flow of air into the rooms of your house.

AC Vent Not Blowing Air In One Room: What To Do

To prevent issues with air flow through your AC ducts into the rooms of your home, be sure to never store items in your attic on top of any ductwork. Avoid stacking boxes or other items near ductwork, either, as they could fall onto the ducts and crush them. Always make sure your AC registers are open, unless you choose to close the registers in some rooms partway in order to push more air to other rooms that are too far away from the AC unit to receive enough air flow.

Again, regular AC maintenance is one of the best ways to prevent problems like air conditioner vents not blowing in one room of your house. A licensed and experienced HVAC professional can inspect all the ductwork and registers of your air conditioning system on a regular basis, ensuring the entire system is in proper working order.

Low Air Flow Through Vents In House And Other AC Problems

The most common cause of low air flow through the vents in your home is blocked or dirty AC filters. When your filters are blocked by furniture or clogged with dirt, dust, hair and other debris, it decreases the efficiency of your entire air conditioning system, greatly reducing its ability to cool your home effectively. Be sure to keep the area around your AC filters clear of furniture and anything else that might block the flow of air, and be sure to clean or change your AC filters once a month. If you have pets that shed lots of hair, you may need to switch out your filters even more often. When you clean or change your AC filters, be sure to vacuum the metal grates closing the filters in at the same time.

Another way to prevent common home cooling problems is to clean your AC registers on a regular basis. Also known as vents, registers are the metal grates that let air flow from the AC ductwork into the rooms of your home. Vacuum these grates once a month, or anytime you see that dust has accumulated on them.

If your AC is running but is not cooling the house properly, you could be the victim of a variety of issues. First, keep in mind that when it’s extremely hot outside, you might be tempted to keep lowering the desired indoor temperature at the thermostat —but your AC will have a hard time cooling your home beyond about 25 degrees cooler than it is outside. For example, if it’s 100 degrees outside, don’t expect your AC to cool your home to 65; the lowest it might be able to achieve is about 75 degrees indoors.

If you’ve set your thermostat within this range and it’s still not cooling properly, there are several other possible reasons why you might be having problems keeping your home cool. Your unit may be low on freon, which could be due to a leak in the system, improper coolant charging when the unit was installed or simply the age of the unit. Regardless of the reason, the freon will need to be topped off by an HVAC professional, who can also diagnose any underlying problem that may have led to the low freon level in the first place.

Another possibility is that there’s a problem with your AC condensing unit, which is the big metal box located outside your home that has grates on the top and sides and a large fan inside. If there are weeds, vines or other plants growing around the condenser, clear them away, as these can restrict air flow to the unit, which then decreases its ability to function properly.

You should also peek inside the condenser to see whether ice has formed on the coils. If you do see ice, or frost, that’s a potentially big issue with a variety of possible causes. You can melt the ice yourself by turning off your AC and switching the fan from “Auto” to “On”; that should melt the ice quickly, within just a few hours. The underlying problem, however, will still need to be resolved. Ice forming on the coils is often due to dirty coils, and cleaning them can be a tricky process that may be best left up to a professional. Fortunately, hiring an HVAC professional to clean your condenser coils is typically not very expensive, and it’s worth the low cost to keep your AC in working order.

If your AC isn’t working at all, the problem could also be with your condenser, and it may be something small or something major. First, if the fan at the top of your condenser unit isn’t spinning, the problem might be as simple as a tripped circuit breaker. To check this, try resetting the AC breaker in your electrical panel by turning it off and then back on again.

If none of these suggestions resolves the issue, your AC might have a broken capacitor. Summer heat is a common culprit in broken capacitors. This is one reason many AC units in North America are installed on the north side of the house to minimize direct sunlight hitting the unit. When the heat of direct summer sunlight mixes with the heat of the condensing unit’s motor, it can spell trouble for various components of the AC. If you do have a broken capacitor, it’s best to hire a professional to fix the issue due to the risk of electric shock as well as the potential for further damage to the condenser unit.

How To Increase Airflow To One Room

As we have already mentioned, the simplest way to increase airflow to one room in your home is by closing the registers, or vents, in other rooms, either completely or partway. This will effectively force more air to flow through the ducts to the rooms that have fully open registers. Also, always be sure that registers are not blocked, either by furniture or any other items. This is particularly important for registers that are mounted in the floor instead of the wall or ceiling.

AC Not Working? ABC Can Help

Whether you need an AC repair, installation or maintenance plan, ABC can get someone working at your home— fast. Our licensed specialists are well-versed in every type of AC problem; we can troubleshoot any issues you’re having and determine the best resolution at an affordable price.

Remember, regular AC maintenance is an important part of keeping your air conditioner running at peak performance. If you have a home warranty, it’s essential to maintain your AC in order to stay in compliance with the terms of your warranty. ABC’s experienced HVAC professionals can perform all the items in a manufacturer’s air conditioner maintenance checklist to keep your system in prime condition. Regular inspections also help prevent major problems from developing unexpectedly. Our routine maintenance system checks include cleaning condenser units, clearing away plants and other debris if needed, checking for freon leaks, inspecting ductwork and more. Best of all, setting up an affordable maintenance plan will save you money in the long run by keeping your AC running efficiently and avoiding the need for major repairs due to lack of upkeep.

The post No Air Coming Out Of Vents: How Can I Get My AC Working? appeared first on ABC Home & Commercial Services Blog.

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There are so many ways to enjoy a day in San Antonio, whether it’s walking around the Pearl, spending an afternoon on the Guadalupe River, seeing a new exhibit at the McNay, letting the kids burn off steam at the Hemisfair or carb loading at the Magnolia Pancake Haus.

No matter how you decide to spend your free time in San Antonio, there is one thing we can all agree on: the last thing you want to do is waste an afternoon, a day and even a weekend trapped inside trying to fix a plumbing problem. Unfortunately, plumbing problems tend to spring up at the worst times, including when your kids are in the car and you have packed the car for an all-day outing.

As locally based San Antonio plumbing experts, the licensed plumbers at ABC Home & Commercial Services have encountered nearly every plumbing malfunction and mishap you can imagine. While you may be able to handle some plumbing issues on your own, others require professional intervention. In some cases, you may start a plumbing project and realize you are in over your head and need a helping hand. Some owners prefer to outsource all plumbing issues to avoid any hiccups or to save time.

We designed this guide to help homeowners discover solutions to common plumbing problems, big and small. With the help of these tips, you can get a better idea of how to solve your plumbing woes so you can get back to enjoying all our area has to offer.

Without further ado, here are a four of the most common San Antonio plumbing problems and solutions:

Leaky Faucet

Is there anything more annoying than the drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet? Leaks aren’t only irritating, either. As every San Antonio resident knows, they are also a huge waste of water!

The Problem

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, American household leaks waste more than one trillion gallons of water every year. One household alone wastes on average more than 10,000 gallons a year.

The good news? You can fix leaky faucets on your own with a few tools and a little bit of determination. Ready to dive in?

The Solution

While there are many types of faucets, the process for fixing a leak is virtually the same for all of them. To stop a leaky faucet, you’ll need to take apart the faucet, stop the leak and then put the assembly back together.

Which tells you absolutely nothing, right? Don’t worry, we’re going to go through a step-by-step instructions for fixing washer and compression faucets.

Step One: Shut Off The Water Supply

Why? Otherwise, you’re probably going to get really wet. Moreover, you may end up flooding your home. Neither option is ideal.

After you do this, turn on the faucet.  Sound counterintuitive? Here’s why: because it allows any remaining water to drip out.

Step Two: Disassemble The Faucet

How? Start by taking off the cover of the faucet and unscrewing or pulling off the cap below. Then, you can take off the handle and see the stem underneath the facet.

Remove the cartridge or stem so you can check if the black rubber O-rings are worn or damaged. If so, you’ll need to purchase replacement O-rings at your local hardware store.

If the O-rings appear fine, the problem could be caused by a valve seat, which is the technical term for the part of the faucet below the cartridge. You can also purchase a new part for this at a hardware store if you notice wear and tear.

A word of advice on shopping for replacement parts: Take the parts you need (or photos of the parts) with you to the hardware store, so you can locate the correct replacements from the same brand-name.

Step Three: Reassemble The Sink

After identifying and replacing the culprit, you can reassemble the sink by piecing the different components back together in reverse order. Test that everything is in working order by turning the water supply on and then shutting the sink off and on.

Keep in mind that these instructions are primarily intended for washer and compression faucets. The process may be slightly different for cartridge, ball-type, diaphragm and other varieties of faucets. However, the same basic idea applies: take apart the sink, find and fix the problem and then put the assembly back together.

Clogged Sink Or Tub

If you notice your sink or bathtub is draining slowly, you may have a clog on your hands.

The Problem

Over time, food, hair and other scum can gather in the drain, obstructing and slowing the flow of water. If a homeowner neglects the issue for a longer period of time, you may risk the clog becoming worse or even blocking water completely. If that happens, your sink or tub can overflow, causing water damage and other, potentially costly damage.

The Solution

As with a leaky faucet, there are a few things homeowners can try to get water flowing again before calling in the professionals.

Option One: Remove Your Sink’s Pop-Up

With sink and some bathtub clogs, the first thing that you should try to do is to remove and clean the pop-up. The pop-up is typically fastened to the drain beneath the sink by a nut that you can unscrew. After cleaning the pop-up, you can reassemble the sink.

Option Two: Remove Your Tub’s Drain Plug 

Alternatively, some bathtubs have pop-up drain plugs that can be unscrewed and removed from the top. Once you remove the plug, you may discover a whole mess of stuff clogging up the top of your drain pipe that you can remove by hand.

Option Three: Use Drain Cleaning Tool 

If the clog isn’t right there at the top for you to pull out, your next best option to unclog your drain is to use a Zip-It drain-cleaning tool. The Zip-It is a long, thin tool that slides into your drain and grabs onto debris so you can pull it out. You can find one of these tools at your local home improvement store.

Option Four: Make A DIY Drain Cleaner

If you manage to remove a clog that you can see but can’t manage to get water moving through your pipes, you may have a problem further down that you can’t reach. In those cases, you can try making a DIY drain cleaner by pouring baking soda and then white vinegar down your drain. Cover the opening with a rag and then run very hot water down the pipes to flush out any problem areas.

Jammed Garbage Disposal

The garbage disposal is a great invention that most homeowners don’t fully appreciate—that is, until yours becomes jammed.

The Problem

You can usually tell when your garbage disposal is jammed because it will either emit a loud noise, make a humming noise but refuse to grind or stop grinding altogether before you turn it off. When this happens, it usually means a hard object is stuck in the impeller blades. Whether it’s eggshells in your garbage disposal or a forgotten spoon that was left in the sink, you’ll want to take care of the problem quickly.

The Solution

To fix a jammed garbage disposal, you’ll need to remove the foreign object from the blades. To unjam your garbage disposal, follow the steps below.

Step One: Turn Off The Disposal

Running a jammed disposal can cause the motor to burn out. Because of this, the first thing you need to do is turn off the disposal, then unplug or switch off the electric circuit that powers the disposal before you begin to address the problem.

Step Two: Examine The Drain Opening

With a flashlight, examine the opening of your sink to see if you can see what is blocking the blades. Common culprits include silverware, bones and fruit pits. If you can, dislodge the object with a wooden spoon or broom handle and dispose of the item in the trash.

Step Three: Try The Hex Socket

If you can’t see any object through the drain or the object is stubbornly stuck inside, try the hex socket. This hex-shaped hole is located beneath the garbage disposal. With a hex wrench, move the socket back and forth to loosen the impeller hub.

Step Four: Test It Out

When the blades can move freely, you can reconnect your garbage disposal to its power source. Before turning the disposal on, press the reset button, which is typically red and located beneath your disposal. Then, give it a test run by running water through the drain with the disposal on.

A Running Toilet

You’ll know you’ve got a running toilet problem if your toilet is constantly running or cycling on and off.

The Problem

Not only is a running toilet frustrating, but also it can results in the waste of gallons and gallons of water, thereby driving up the cost of your utility bills. A running toilet can be caused by a variety of factors, including worn flappers, broken fill valves and low water levels.

The Solution

In order to fix a running toilet, you’ll first need to locate the cause. Here are some common sources of a running toilet and the way to fix the problem.

Replacing A Worn Flapper

The flapper or valve seal is a rubber cap that prevents water from seeping from the tank into the bowl. Over time, flappers can decay or become hard and need to be replaced to properly seal your tank. You can purchase a new flapper at a hardware store. Be sure to purchase a replacement that is the same brand and size as the original flapper.

To install the new flapper, begin by turning off the water supply beneath the toilet. Next, flush the toilet to remove as much of the water as you can. Remove the old flapper and install the replacement according to the instructions included with the package, as installation may vary depending on your toilet’s design.

Reconnect the flapper chain to the handle lever, making sure the chain is long enough to allow some slack when the handle is at rest. Finally, turn the water back on and test the new flapper by flushing the toilet a few times.

Repair Faulty Fill Valves

The valve is the part of the toilet that regulates the water flow. When the valve is not working properly, it may allow water to flow continually. You may have a broken fill valve if your float valve is fully submerged.

To replace a broken fill valve, start by turning off the toilet’s water supply. Next, empty the tank by flushing the toilet. Use a pair of tongue and groove pliers to unscrew the locking nut located beneath the fill valve outside the tank.

Remove the old fill valve and install the new valve, adjusting its length so it’s the proper height for your tank. With your pliers, re-screw the locking nut. After the new valve is installed and the nut is screwed on tightly, you can turn your water supply back on.

Correcting Improper Water Levels

When your float is set too high, it allows water to leak into the toilet bowl and cause the water levels in your tank to drop. Low water levels can keep your toilet continually running.

To fix the water level of your tank, you need to adjust the float. Use the screw at the base of the float arm to raise the float, which will cause the water level to rise.

ABC Is Your Solution For Your San Antonio Plumbing Problems

Although many common plumbing problems can be fixed with a bit of know-how and the right tools, other issues may require the help of a professional plumber. Taking on a major plumbing repair can result in a homeowner unintentionally causing common plumbing mistakes which can lead to property damage, injury and even more expensive repairs in the long run.

So how do you know when to DIY or call a plumber? Common issues that are too dangerous or complex to take on by yourself include water heater problems, burst pipes, septic tank leaks, sewer line leaks and the installation of pipes and major appliances.

Of course, you can also just give our professionals at ABC a call whenever there’s a plumbing job you don’t have the time, energy, or desire to handle on your own. When in doubt, contact ABC’s San Antonio office for a consultation and estimate before you make a decision on how you want to handle your plumbing issue.

The post San Antonio Plumbing Problems And Solutions appeared first on ABC Home & Commercial Services Blog.

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Before we go into detail about the tarantula hawk, let’s make sure one thing is clear: this creature, contrary to what its name might suggest, is not a spider, nor is it a hawk. In fact, the tarantula hawk is one of the largest wasps found in Texas and other desert environments in the southwestern parts of the United States.

If this animal is an insect, how did it get its name? Believe it or not, this type of wasp, which is distinct because of its large size, red wings and bright, metallic blue-black coloring, preys on tarantulas. When this wasp stings a tarantula, the arachnid becomes permanently paralyzed.  The tarantula wasp then buries the spider in a hole in the ground or in the tarantula’s own underground nest. To finish the job, the wasp lays its eggs on the paralyzed spider. Once the wasp’s larvae hatch, they feed on the still paralyzed spider. Sounds like a scene out of a horror movie, right?

The process, seen through by the species’ females, sounds rather vicious, but fear not; the tarantula hawk is generally harmless to humans because they rarely sting. Still, though, it’s best to leave them alone, as if a wasp is provoked, you are at a higher risk of being stung. Read on to learn more about the tarantula hawk’s sting, the relationship between a tarantula hawk and a tarantula, where these wasps live and where these creatures nest.

Tarantula Hawk Sting

Similar to bee species, only female wasps sting. For their prey, these stings are deadly. People who are unlucky enough to be stung by a tarantula hawk report that it’s one of the most painful insect stings in the world. Justin Schmidt, an American entomologist, developed a sting pain index and classified the tarantula hawk sting as the most painful wasp sting in the world. The level of discomfort is second only to the South American bullet ant for all stinging insects. The initial pain for a victim of a tarantula hawk sting lasts between three and five minutes.

What does being stung by one of these wasps feel like, exactly? Schmidt says that many victims are unable to “maintain verbal and physical coordination after getting stung” by a tarantula hawk. Though this wasp species can produce an incredibly powerful sting, a female’s stinger is actually quite small, measuring just ¼ of an inch, or 7 mm, in length.

The pain of a tarantula hawk sting has been compared to being hit by a taser gun. Despite its powerful sting and high ranking on the Schmidt sting pain scale, it is unknown what causes a tarantula hawk sting to be so painful to humans.

As much as you should avoid being stung by a tarantula hawk, keep in mind that these creatures are not aggressive, so the chances are very unlikely that you will become a victim.

Tarantula Hawk Vs. Tarantulas

Now that we know more about why this wasp species got its name, you might be wondering why a wasp preys on these huge spiders instead of decaying fruit, nectar or other smaller insects, as other species do. The main reason is simple: the tarantula’s size. For female wasps, the spider’s large size makes it the perfect meal for their offspring, which are known to be larger than most other insects at birth.

The wasp first seeks its prey by searching the ground for spiders from the air. If the wasp notices a spider hidden in its burrow or nest, the female wasp will stroke the spider’s web, causing movement. The tarantula then emerges from its hiding spot to claim its assumed kill. Once the tarantula is exposed, the wasp performs a deadly dance to encourage the tarantula to rear up on its back legs, which allows the tarantula hawk to sting its prey.

What happens next? The tarantula hawk pierces the spider with a sharp, curved stinger that rapidly injects venom that causes permanent paralysis. One thing to note, though, is that the wasp does not kill its prey; instead, the venom keeps its adversary alive. In fact, the spider stays alive even while the wasp lays her eggs and while the eggs hatch. The spider is killed only after the larvae hatch, as that’s when the larvae burrow into the spider’s abdomen and begin eating the tarantula alive.

The development process for the tarantula wasp takes about 20 to 25 days. The eggs will hatch within a few days after being laid, but the larva must undergo multiple phases before becoming an adult, molting its skin four times. During this time, the larva has eaten the spider’s blood, muscle, fat, digestive system and reproductive system—leaving only the heart and nervous system intact. Once the wasp molts for the fifth time, the creature eats the rest of the spider before spinning a silken cocoon to pupate.

The pupal stage depends on the time of year, taking only several weeks in the early season to as long as the entire winter in the later part of the season. After the adult wasp emerges, males have just a few weeks to live. Female wasps, however, can live four to five months. Though both males and females can grow to be as large as five centimeters in length—the largest of the wasp species—as we have already mentioned, only the female wasps have stingers. 

The tarantula wasp venom is so powerful that the spider’s death is inevitable; it will die whether or not larvae is present. Because the paralysis is so severe, the spider would remain paralyzed for an extended period of time before its respiratory system eventually stops. If you are talking about tarantulas in Texas or in other parts of the country, in a battle between the tarantula hawk and a tarantula, the latter doesn’t stand a chance.

Where Does The Tarantula Hawk Wasp Live?

Between 250 and 300 species of tarantula hawks are scattered across the planet. These stinging insects are found in just about every continent except Europe and Antartica. There are about 15 species of tarantula hawks and other parts of the country, although they are most commonly found in deserts in the country’s southwest regions. This isn’t shocking, since their prey, tarantulas, are most commonly found in desert-like habitats as well, including in and around the Grand Canyon.

Despite their preference for desert-like environments, this species is incredibly adaptable and is capable of surviving in other environments, including tropical rainforests and shrub and grasslands. Unlike other wasp species, the tarantula wasp doesn’t don’t live in colonies, choosing solitary lives, only coming together to mate.

After learning about how the tarantula hawk got its name, you may be surprised to learn that non-egg laying adult tarantula hawks feeds only on nectar. In other words, they don’t hunt for food. Another interesting fact about this insect is that it is diurnal, which means these wasps are active during the day. Why is this strange? Tarantulas are nocturnal, so when females do hunt their arachnid prey, much of the process occurs at night.

Though they are mainly active during the day, tarantula hawks try to avoid high temperatures as much as possible. As such, when they are outside hunting for prey, they are typically seen flying in the shade under plants and trees.

Is There Such A Thing As A Tarantula Hawk Wasp Nest?

Because this wasp species is not social, tarantula hawks don’t build nests. Instead of a nest, the tarantula hawk instead opts to burrow into the soil or natural spaces in the ground. These stinging insects are also known to make their home in cavities that have already been built out by other insects or animals in the ground. If you are worried that you might accidentally have a close encounter with a tarantula hawk, keep in mind that this species of wasp isn’t naturally aggressive towards humans. So if you do see one near or in your home, it’s best to leave them alone. Chances are, they will leave on their own accord.

Without colonies, the good news is that it is very unlikely that your home or yard will be infested with tarantula hawks. That said, just one sting from one tarantula wasp can be incredibly painful. If you aren’t keen on having stinging insects of any kind on your property, you can take steps to learn what attracts wasps and watch your home’s eaves for a red wasp nest or signs of other species. Some of the same techniques to keep wasps away correspond with how to keep tarantulas away, which of course are prey for reproducing tarantula hawk females: sealing any gaps on your home’s exterior and making sure window frames and doors have no gaps to allow these creatures to come inside or rest.

If you do encounter a large wasp in or around your home, it’s important to stay calm. As we mentioned, this species is not inherently aggressive, and if left alone, will likely exit on its own in search of its prey. If you begin to notice more wasps in and around your home, though, it might be time to call in the experts from your local pest control company.  

ABC Can Protect Your Family From Stinging Insects

Because the tarantula wasp maintains an isolated lifestyle, it’s often hard to remove them from your home. In many cases, insect or pest removal techniques depend on a nest or colony to focus on. Without a nest to remove or identify, it can be challenging—and potentially dangerous, or extremely painful in this case—to try to remove individual wasps on your own. That’s where ABC Home and Commercial Services comes in. Our team of experts can distinguish between wasp species and carefully, and cautiously, remove one or many tarantula wasps from your home so that you don’t have to worry about anyone in your household falling victim to a painful sting.

The post Tarantula Hawk: Is It An Arachnid, A Bird Or Something Else? appeared first on ABC Home & Commercial Services Blog.

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You’re not a person who likes waste. So, when you heard that watering during the day was a bad idea because the sun just evaporates the water, you did what seemed like the obvious thing. You switched the timer on your sprinkler system to water at night.

After a while, though, you notice some bare brown spots developing on your lawn. You think your grass must need more water, so you extend your watering time. How frustrating is it when you notice the problems only get worse? Very.

By the time you call in a professional who tells you it’s root rot, the problem has gotten bigger and costlier. Or maybe you hear you have brown patch. What is brown patch? The short answer is that both conditions can turn into huge headaches. Too make matters worse, your lawn technician may tell you that it’s your fault.

How?

By watering your plants at night.

Some homeowners water their lawns based on a common misconception: that our hot summer days make daytime watering useless. If water evaporates before it gets to the roots, you would only assume you should change to night watering.

The truth is: watering at night is a bad idea. That’s why we created this guide about when and how to best water your lawn. Keep reading to learn exactly why night watering leads to issues, as well as when and how often you should be watering your lawn to keep it vibrant and healthy.

Why Watering At Night Is A Bad Idea

If you’re told “don’t water during the day,” it makes sense that your first inclination would be to turn to watering during the night. After all, there are only two options, right? If you can’t water when the sun’s out, you have to do it overnight.

Here’s the problem, though: while too much evaporation is bad, no evaporation is often worse.

Many fungal and bacterial diseases that can harm your lawn and your plants thrive in wet foliage. With no hot sun to burn it off, excess water just sits there. All. Night. Long.

It’s like you’re turning your lawn into a petri dish and trying to breed bacterial and fungal diseases. Yard fungus is just as bad as it sounds.

If you shouldn’t water your lawn during the hottest part of the day or at night, what other option is available?

Best Time To Water Lawn In Hot Weather

Your clue about when you should be watering your grass is in that phrase above: “during the hottest part of the day.” It’s not all day that you need to avoid, but just the hottest parts of the day.

Think about when it’s warmest where you live. For most of us, that means late morning, the middle of the day and during the afternoon and early evening before the sun sets.

If you try to water your lawn during these times, most of it absolutely will be evaporated before your grass and plants can soak it in and benefit from it. You will end up with thirsty roots that aren’t getting the moisture they need, especially during when the temperatures are consistently high and there is less rainfall.

The options mentioned above are not the only times of the day though. What’s missing? Early morning.

Set your sprinklers to water relatively early in the morning. The water will then have time to soak into the ground. At that time, your plants’ roots will have time to drink their fill.

Then, by the time your sprinklers are done, the sun will be stronger. Any leftover moisture will be baked away rather than sitting there on your lawn, encouraging disease.

How Often Should I Water My Lawn With A Sprinkler System?

How often should you water? Let’s answer that with another question: what kind of soil do you have?

This is important to know, because typically you want to water sandy soils every three days or so, while clay soils only require water about once a week.

Not sure exactly what type of soil you have? No problem. There are many fairly easy ways to test it, including some DIY methods.

Just as important as frequency, you need to know how long to water your lawn each time you do it. Ideally, you want to keep the water running long enough for moisture to soak six inches deep into the soil.

Why? Simple. That’s how deep grass roots generally grow.

What’s not so simple is knowing how long it will take the water to soak down those six inches. Unfortunately, we have some bad news for you: every lawn is a bit different. How often and how much you should water depends on the makeup of your soil.

You can generalize, but the best way to know for sure is to turn on the water for your regularly scheduled watering, grab a shovel and dig up the topsoil after about 15 minutes. You’ll be able to feel how far down the water has penetrated and gauge how long you need.

In some lawns, that first 15 minutes may be enough. Most, however, will probably need a bit longer.

This is especially true for many lawns in newer developments, because often builders end up unintentionally packing the ground down as they engage in construction, leading to hard, nonporous soil that needs to be softened before they can soak in the water.

For these types of lawns, we recommend breaking up your watering sessions. In other words, you want to water for 15-30 minutes, turn off the water to let it soak in for a bit, then water for another 15-30 minutes. Doing this prevents the water from pooling on the top and simply running off.

When Should You Water Your Lawn In Cooler Weather?

While longtime residents know that there are very definitively four seasons in the south, they’re not quite as distinct as the traditional seasons we learn about in school.

This is especially true where lawns are concerned. Generally speaking, we have a hot growing season and a cooler mostly dormant season.

Which begs the question: should you change when you water your lawn in the fall and winter?

Yes and no.

Why the complicated answer? Most of the time the answer is yes (though not in the way you probably think), but in some situations, it’s a no.

How so?

Here’s the thing. Most people in the south probably won’t need to water their lawns over the cooler parts of the year. Even in low-rain areas, there’s usually enough water to support the roots. During this time of year, that’s really all you need.

However, if you experience a long period without rain and feel the need to give your lawn a little H2O pick-me-up, you should follow the advice above–water in the early morning. You’ll want to do this for all the reasons already mentioned. Even though the sun isn’t as strong in cooler weather, it still helps to evaporate the water.

How To Know When To Start Watering The Lawn Again

Okay, so let’s say that you got through the cooler winter months without any watering. Congratulations! You know you will have to start up again at some point, though. As the weather starts to get warmer, you find yourself asking the question, ‘When is the right time?’

Should you just go back to your “warm weather” schedule at the beginning of spring? Do you wait until the grass begins growing again and you have to start cutting it?

While you don’t want to wait until your lawn starts looking sickly and brown, most people actually misjudge and begin watering too early in the year.

So how do you know when to start back up with watering your lawn?

Check the weather. The most basic rule is that you do not need to worry about watering your lawn until the weather is hot and dry.

In other words, if you’re getting a good amount of spring rain, you can wait. If you touch your lawn in the morning and your fingers get wet with dew, you can wait.

To keep your lawn as healthy and resilient as possible, the best thing that you can do for it is to wait to start watering until it really, truly needs it. A little bit of stress should actually cause your roots to grow deeper as they seek out water, making them stronger.

ABC Can Ensure Your Lawn Is Always Healthy and Green

Keeping your lawn appropriately watered and vibrant isn’t always as easy as it sounds, especially if you don’t have a good sprinkler system or if yours isn’t working properly. If you want to upgrade or repair your system to help maintain your lawn, do not hesitate to turn to the experts at ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our knowledgeable lawn and sprinkler technicians can advise you on the type of watering and sprinkler system that is best for your soil and even help you program it properly so you never have to worry. Good lawns require work, but you can still make that work a little bit easier with the right advice and the right tools.

The post Watering Lawn At Night: Good For Your Grass Or Bad Idea? appeared first on ABC Home & Commercial Services Blog.

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