September 11, 2001. Everyone who was old enough to understand what was going on that day remembers where they were and what they were doing. Like many other people, the economic effects of that day were far more lasting for me personally than I had imagined they could be.
3 months later I was laid-off from my contract I.T. job in Austin, TX. With short notice, I had to find a job in a tough economy. I scoured Monster.com and other job search; I applied at local grocery stores, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and other retail stores. No one was hiring.
February rolled around and my best friend recommended I apply with the pest control company he was working for. I had done some contract I.T. work for them before since a common friend of ours owned the business. After some thought, I called the owner and told him my situation. He hired me over the phone.
When the summer season hit, I went out to the company’s Mesa, AZ branch. I attained a full license in Arizona, and worked as the primary technician for new sales. This is when the job got interesting. The majority of customers were NOT sold on the service when I showed up for the first time. I had to use the customer service skills I had learned working on I.T. Help Desks to re-sell the account and assure them of the need for treatment.
Dealing with people was by far the best part of the job. All kinds of people live in this world, and all of them have pest problems at some point; from the modest homes in a subdivision, to the multi-million dollar homes on Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale.
It takes all kinds of people to be exterminators. Many people think of the profession of exterminator as un-respectable. I say to the contrary. They are men and women doing honest work, and supporting their families. It takes quite a bit of intelligence to perform this demanding job. I admire all who undertake it as a profession.
I’ve since moved back into the I.T. field, but still retain my knowledge of pest control, and perform treatment on my own home. Everyone should have a trade they can fall back on in hard times, and clearly this is one that will always be in demand.
This part of my story led me to decide on re-making a blog about home improvement, and I wanna start on sharing what I know about pest control. We all want to give a shelter that is safe and relieved from pests, right? Most especially if we have children in the house, we hate insects and rodents lurking around the house.
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First things first: Ants and their tactics. The main thing you need to know about ants is that they leave scent trails, so no method for getting rid of ants is 100% effective. Which is to say – if you’re the kind of person who wants to nuke ’em with toxins, the next ant colony will to show up tomorrow anyway.
But you’re probably not that kind of person, because you’re reading this article. And, fortunately, some of the best ways of getting rid of ants involve getting rid of their scent trails – something that’s easy to do with natural and organic pest control methods.
Second things second: terminology. “Organic” is a misnomer – lots of poisonous chemicals are organic in the sense that they contain carbon, but that’s not what this article is about either. I’m going to list some natural pest control methods that are available in your cabinets or at your grocery store, that are non-toxic to humans, that can be bought with or without “certified organic” status.
Necessary information: The first step to all of these methods is to find where the ants are coming in. It’s often a little crack in the frame of a window, or by the floorboards. Ants are very small!
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- Vinegar. Use a spray bottle to spray vinegar around the area where the ants are coming in, and anywhere else you’ve seen them walking. Smell that funny smell? So do they, and it confuses them and removes their scent trail.
- Black Pepper. Sprinkle around the ant area – again, it blocks their scent. The oil may also be an irritant to them.
- Diatomaceous Earth. This is a fancy name for a kind of chalk-like powder which kills insects. The grains are sharp-edged and absorb hydration, causing the ants to dehydrate and die. For a widespread problem with ants in the floor, such that blocking one or two entrances won’t remove them, sprinkle this powder over the entire area and then vacuum later. A dust mask is recommended, as breathing the powder in can be harmful, but it’s otherwise non-toxic.
- Cinnamon. This is my favorite way of getting rid of ants, though be careful, as it might stain. Like black pepper, it blocks their scent.
- Combined methods. Wipe the area down with vinegar, getting rid of the ants that are present, and follow up by sprinkling black pepper or cinnamon over the place where the ants are getting in.
Difficult economic times have forced many homeowners to find ways to save money on things like pest control. Pest control is one homeownership maintenance cost that can be drastically reduced saving you up to $300 or more per year if you do it yourself.
Follow these DIY home pest control tips and advice on products that will save you hundreds of dollars every year while keeping your home bug free!
DIY Home Pest Control: Materials
- Fertilizer Spreader for the Yard
- Ortho Max Pest Control for Lawns
- Ortho Max Indoor Pest Control Spray
DIY Home Pest Control Step 1:
Home pest control begins with a complete treatment of the areas outside of the home where bugs tend to live. Treating the yard is the first step to preventing pests inside the home. Wear gloves and pour Ortho Max pest control for Lawns into a fertilizer spreader to be spread over the lawn. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to maintain the amount of pest control granules that are spread onto the lawn.
DIY Home Pest Control Step 2:
Once you have applied bug killing granules all over the entire lawn, you are ready to control the bugs that may linger inside the home. Begin by spraying the eves in the attic with Ortho Max Pest Control Spray. From the attic, work your way down to the main floor of the home. Spray a thin stream of pest control along baseboards, under cabinets, behind appliances and along doorways that lead outside of the home.
DIY Home Pest Control Costs:
Typically, Ortho Max lawn granules only cost about $20 for enough treatment to treat a half acre lawn twice per year. It is recommended to treat in early spring and again in the fall. The indoor spray comes in a gallon form and costs under $10. This gallon will last at least an entire year. Treat the entire house one time and then use the spray as needed if you notice any bugs.
DIY Home Pest Control Tips:
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- The indoor spray can be used on a monthly basis on doorways to prevent insects from entering the home. This spray also works great on porches throughout the year. Always treat areas that are susceptible to bugs entering from outside of the home.
- Remove all pine mulch from beds that are in the yard or close to main entryways into the home. Pine bark style mulch attracts hundreds of different species of bugs. Treat mulch in flower beds and gardens with an insect repellent and insecticide that will prevent the build up of bugs in these areas. Reducing bugs in the yard will reduce the likelihood of such bugs entering the home!
- Annual treatment of the home and yard will keep pests at bay. An entire year’s worth of pest control with store bought pesticides costs less than $30 saving you at least $300 each year!
In this financially challenged eco conscious world better and cheaper solutions to our everyday problems are being realized daily. Much of the focus devoted to the age old problem, how to build the better mouse trap. In other words how do I get rid of household pest.
To my surprise there are some things you might already use in your daily routine, that is quite effective. For instance a good household combination that can be used to kill wasps is a modest amount of dish washing detergent with cold water. Take aim and douse the nest or use a stream type sprayer for air bourn wasp. It has an instant knock down effect.
A cheap yet safe and effective rat poison, can be made from this simple mixture. Mix equal parts of cement with flour and a touch of cocoa for flavor. Place a pan of water next to it. The cement should be the pure form without the rocks and sand.
On the other hand a good cockroach bait can be made from the following ingredients. Mix 4 tablespoons borax, 2 tablespoons of flour and 1 tablespoon of cocoa. Put in small containers, preferably bottle caps and place where the little villains hang out.
And who hasn’t been annoyed by the usual summer invasion by an army of ants. Before you buy that expensive bait try sprinkling cinnamon around the apparent point of entry. Sprinkle a modest amount because I’ve noticed on one occasion when I sprinkled lightly, they navigate
their way through the granules.
A good killing mixture is regular syrup with a modest amount of baking yeast to make an effective ant bait. Smear the compound along ant trails for the best results.
A good mosquito repellent is a plain bounce fabric softener dryer sheet. Carry a couple of sheets partially exposed in your pocket. You may have to periodically rub your arms and clothing with them for added protection.
If from time to time you experience critters getting into your attic. Just toss some moth balls around especially at the point of entry. `A friend of mine had a unique problem. It seems that every dog in the neighborhood used his yard for a poop stop. I suggested the mothballs and so far it has stopped. It doesn’t have to be done indefinitely, just until they get trained to another spot.
I on the other hand had a two legged pest problem. A friend who just kept coming and calling regardless of the measures I took to minimize contact. Not answering the door or phone sometimes telling him the wife wanted me to do errands etc. After giving it a little thought I used a control method that has worked for years. I loan him money and that was the best twenty dollars I ever spent. Haven’t seen him since.
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There is a high risk of frost damage in the Atlanta landscape this winter. The metro Atlanta area, especially the Buckhead area and the northern suburbs, has been shocked with extraordinarily low temperatures, snow and ice. Normally, most of our plants can handle a bit of severe winter weather. This year, however, the particular set of weather circumstances created a perfect storm for frost damage in Atlanta landscapes.
Unlike our residents, most of the plant material in the Buckhead / Atlanta landscape is capable of handling 12 to 15 degree temperatures without significant frost damage. This year, however, has a much higher risk of frost damage due to the fact that we are coming off one of the longest summers in our history. Our October temperatures hovered near 90 degrees early in the month, and our average lows in November were a balmy 42 degrees.
Why, you may ask, does a warm autumn affect frost damage? Because these warm temperatures kept our grasses, plants and trees from preparing for winter. Some were still sprouting new growth at Thanksgiving when they should have been shutting down for the winter. If December stayed mild and we would have gradually worked our way down to the freezing mark, all would be good. Instead, December came with a vengeance and our low temperatures dropped like a rock from the 40s to the low teens. Those plants and trees, many still green and growing, suffered quite a shock from such an extreme and rapid temperature swing. Historically, by the time the Atlanta landscape sees temperatures in the teens we have had weeks, if not months, of temperatures dipping into the upper 20s. This winter we went from the low 40s to the low teens in a matter of weeks.
So what can you do to minimize the damage? First and foremost, don’t over-react. Remember this about garden maintenance and lawn care: Every application, treatment or cut temporarily adds stress to plant material. So your best immediate response is no response at all. Suspend everything until we reach seasonal temperatures – no fertilization, no weed control, no lime applications and no pruning**.
Second, make sure you water before the next round of harsh weather. A well-watered plant is far more resilient than a drought-stressed plant. We would like to think we won’t see any more temperatures in the teens, but that’s just wishful thinking.
**Since the most important pruning of the year takes place in winter, you may wonder why we suggest not pruning now, so keep reading. We’ll tell you.
Cool Season Grasses (Fescues)
This has been a terrible year for Fescue grasses. Fescue is a cool-season grass, grown for temperatures between 50 and 85 degrees, and we haven’t had many days between 50 and 85. Because of the extremely hot fall, the window to re-seed Fescue was short and didn’t give the newly-seeded grass to mature before temperatures plummeted into the teens.
To repair any frost damage to Fescue lawns, carefully re-seed the damaged areas in the February timeframe. If you have a landscape service, they will probably do this automatically. February is early and temperatures will still be low, but you want to get some germination going as much before spring as possible. Be careful not to put down too much seed. Yes, you can put down too much seed and it will never perform well because the grass will be too crowded. “More” is not always “better”. It takes a long time for seed to germinate this time of year, so don’t add more seed a week later thinking your first application washed away.
Warm Season Grasses
Warm season grasses like Zoysia and Bermuda can generally withstand temperatures of 10 degrees or so and suffer only minimal frost damage. But when temperatures are in the 80s in October, warm season grasses think its still summer. Instead of gradually shutting down for the winter, they stay green and keep growing. These grasses are most sensitive during the transition into and out of dormancy and during this sensitive period, these grasses were shell-shocked with temperatures in the low teens.
Since these grasses are now dormant there is nothing we can do to assess or repair the damage. Perform your usual pre-emergent applications but other than that, leave them alone. In spring you can begin to assess the damage and begin the repair process. Minor damage can be raked out, fertilized and watered generously and the grass will repair itself with a little time. More extensive damage may need to be cut out and patched with sod. If you go this route just make sure you know what kind of grass you have. Patching Bermuda with Zoysia, or worse, Zoysia with Bermuda, will give you a major headache.
Plants, Trees and Shrubs
With such extreme temperature swings we could see frost damage throughout the Atlanta landscape. With the extremely cold temperatures and the amount of snow we have already seen, even Pansies will be impacted. Your first priority in a frozen garden is to make sure you don’t do more harm than good. Don’t recklessly knock the snow of Pansies, Boxwoods or even trees. Remember, in freezing temperatures plants are brittle and branches can snap. Most important, be careful not to slip on ice or snow and hurt yourself. Whatever damage there may be is already done and rushing out to prune a branch or knock the snow off isn’t going to make it better.
Here is where some good news comes in. Winter is the best time to prune just about everything! And with proper pruning you can cure almost all ills, including frost damage. It is almost the time to begin, but earlier we suggested you wait for a bit longer because we prefer to start our heavy pruning in early February. With the bizarre weather we experience in the Atlanta area, waiting until February gives us a little more confidence that dormant plants and trees are truly dormant.
Soon you can begin all of your winter pruning. Use these cold winter months to keep your foundation plants in scale or just to keep them healthy and flowering. This is also the time to rejuvenate plants that are damaged or unhealthy. Many can be pruned to one or two feet tall, after which they will come to life as a healthy, full, new plant. The winter is the time for all of your rejuvenation pruning, but make sure you know your plants and you ask, like how I would ask for a tree service near me, before you embark on something like this.
Happy gardening. And remember, in the garden be bold when it’s cold!
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