How to Plant a Fall Vegetable Garden in Houston

August in Houston means high heat, high humidity, and an increased interest in staying inside and staying cool. However, if you are willing to brave the heat now you can set yourself up for some delicious produce come fall.

The good news is that you don’t want to start your plantings in the heat as what is too hot for us is too hot for those tender seeds as well. Instead, you will want to start your seeds off in little pots and take care to keep them consistently moist. Your best bet is to place them in the morning sun, but make sure they have afternoon shade – or move them out of the sun come noon. If you need to speed up the process and are getting a later start, soak your seeds overnight in water before planting.  This will soften the hull and give you a jump start on growth.

Another trick to fool seeds into sprouting at the wrong time of year is to start them in an ice cube. A good example is spinach, which typically sprouts later in the season. You can get them to sprout sooner by freezing the seed in an ice cube and then planting the ice cube (who knew!).

Once the seeds start to sprout maintain the watering and sun schedule until they reach 6” tall.
Remember: you want moist soil, but you don’t want to overwater and cause root rot. Once they hit 6” they are ready to be planted. Ideally, you will want to do so in a raised bed since it is easier to water and maintain moistness than flat ground.

Be sure to weed and prep the soil with a good compost before planting. If you don’t have raised beds work your soil into raised ridges and plant in those.

 

Some plants that will do well planted in August include cabbage, okra (if you speed up the sprouting time by soaking the seeds in water), and so long as you maintain good moisture, cherry tomatoes. You are best waiting until the end of the month for the latter.

Once we move into September the options increase. Having prepped your seeds for growth in mid-Augustyou can start planting out snap beans, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, swiss chard, kale, English peas, Irish potatoes, collards, kale, and summer squash.

In October, you can plant beets, garlic and leaf lettuce. In November, consider adding radish and turnip to your garden.

For a comprehensive list of what to plant when, and a guide on how to build your garden before planting, visit TAMU’s website here.  You can see a comprehensive list of Texas varieties of veggies that will do well here and have you winning the battle of vegetables vs. sun.  Come fall your family will enjoy a feast of fresh vegetables!  If you want to enjoy your gardening work without being bitten call Mosquito Joe.  Remember, we will never treat your veggie garden unless the situation warrants (and we speak with you first) and then we will only use an all-natural garlic option. Our services are tailored to your yard so we can make your outside fun again while minimizing our impact to pollinators and beneficial insects.

 

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How to Keep Water Activities From Breeding Mosquitoes

It’s hard to believe that we are halfway through 2020 although some might say it’s the longest year on record. As we approach the hottest month of the year the yard is filling with toys to keep our kids cool. Slip n’ slides and water balloon fun can help make for an exciting afternoon outside while keeping the family cool, but they are also a potential attractant for mosquitoes. As always, we want to help you keep that mosquito population down and are here to point out some ways to do just that.

Water games are popular in Texas, and with good reason. In the mid-afternoon sun, you and your kids can overheat quickly. It’s what you do after the games are finished that will have a big impact on the number of mosquitoes in your yard. After all, mosquitoes need water to lay their eggs. The more water the merrier as far as they are concerned, but they don’t need much. Just one teaspoon of water provides enough surface area for 300 eggs!  So, the key to managing the population is in how you put the toys away.

Slip n’ slides and kiddie pools are often emptied of water and left to dry. If they are put away when they are still wet, pockets of water can attract mosquitoes.  Compound that with how we store them – often in a dark place – and we just made the mosquitoes a most excellent home. Ideally you want to hang these toys up to drip dry and then fold them and store them in a sealed location.

Buckets and water balloon toys often have the same fate. We hide them away in a tub or in a garage, but we don’t remove all the water before we do. Since these places are cool and shaded, mosquitoes will welcome the opportunity to lay their eggs in these locations and before you know it you have quite the population boom.

A simple and fun afternoon can be spent running around with a sprinkler in the yard. Where things can often go wrong is when other toys, inevitably in the yard as well, are hit with the sprinkler and fill up with water. We recently had a customer who was having continual issues under his car port. We made multiple visits to try and determine the issue with no luck. Finally, one day we arrived early, to find an outdoor play kitchen out in the yard. We realized that it was full of mosquito larvae (on the face of it looked very clean, but inside the walls of the kitchen was stagnant water). Turns out, the customer was putting the toy in his garage before we came to treat and then returning it outside for the grandkids. We estimated about 1.5 gallons of water in when we emptied it.

The key takeaway here is to just to be conscious of mosquitoes and their behavior when you clean up the yard after a day of play. Make sure everything is dry and that your storage location is completely sealed. Damp, shady places with pockets of water will breed millions of mosquitoes. Check slides and playhouses for water and get rid of as much as you can by rotating it or moving it into a sunny area.

We hope you create some great memories with your kids and none of them involve bug bites and if they do, give us a call and we will be happy to make your outside a fun place to be.

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Things to Do at Home

For the introverts amongst us, staying at home is not much of a change in routine.  But for the extrovert, thumb twiddling could become the next sport.  We thought we would gather together some ideas to keep you busy during this strange time.

If you are looking for some “big” ideas, consider learning a new language or taking up an art form. From painting to simple doodling, you can pass a few happy hours this way: watercolor, oil paint, drawing, sculpting and so on.   There are a lot of tutorials available on YouTube for every art medium you can think of. If you want something that requires less skill, check out some of the new paint by number options out there. You can paint some pretty impressive and large pieces of art these days. You can also consider scrapbooking. Do you have a pile of old photos you’ve always been meaning to sort out? Now is a great time to sit down and create some albums for your family to treasure. Create a vision board and get your kids to do the same.

Baking is a great hobby that has the added benefit of filling up your kitchen with yummy treats. The only down-side here is the possible lack of ingredients in your local stores.  Check out Instagram for streaming bread-making classes, or, again, head to YouTube for some free lessons. There are also a multitude of companies that offer classes online if you want to take that path.

If you love to organize, now is a great time to set about with a plan to sort out your home.  Marie Kondo and her book “The Magic Art of Tidying Up” approaches tidying from a new perspective and you can drill down and get your whole house revamped in a few weeks.  It’s also a great time for all those honey-do’s that there is never any time for.

Gardening is another great hobby that you can really enjoy this time of year. Maybe you’ve always intended on laying a new bed or revamping some old ones. Getting outside can really keep your spirits up when you are asked to stay home and what better way to use your time than to make some changes and upgrade your curb appeal.

If gardening isn’t for you, work on the inside of your home and consider painting a new color on the wall or moving some furniture around.

If you have children, you know that starting a new hobby is not as easy as it sounds. But consider making it a family affair and learn something new together. Have an afternoon of art, create a fairy garden outside or sort out their toys with them. Pulling out some cards or jigsaw’s or games is a great way to spend time together. Think about putting a tent up in the yard and going on a “camping trip” or build a fort in the game room.

Speaking of the kids, consider getting everyone involved in some family exercise like yoga or aerobics. An hour of expending some energy will help everyone’s sanity. Opt for a picnic in the garden instead of dinner at the table if the weather allows. The key with kids is having some kind of routine to make each day have purpose. Honestly, routine is key with us adults too. Consider writing down all the tasks you wish you had time for, and all the things you wish you had time to learn.  Then create a calendar to get those things accomplished. Just don’t forget to intersperse some fun in there!

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How Do I Get Rid of Chiggers?

Every day we are asked “how do I get rid of *fill in the blank*?”  We thought it would be useful to write a post on the most common pests we are asked about.  This month we look at chiggers and fleas.

How do I get rid of chiggers?

Chiggers come from the mite family and are also known as berry bugs and harvest mites, to name a few.  They are microscopic in size (1/60th of an inch) and are actually a relative of the tick.  In their larval stage they attach to animals (us included) and feed.  They don’t bite, but instead inject digestive enzymes that break down skin cells.  After feeding they drop to the ground, leaving behind an irritated and itchy lesion.  The itch only occurs after they drop off.

Chiggers can be found anywhere, but they gravitate to dense vegetation and are at their peak in early summer.  In Texas, they are a problem for far longer than the northern states. You can’t do much for the itch except calamine, hydro-cortisone and other topical options.

Prevention is in two parts.  Firstly, minimize your contact with chiggers by wearing tall socks (a stylish look in the summer) and tightly fitting clothing.  An insect spray containing DEET will help ward them off.

Secondly, in your own yard you can reduce their numbers by cleaning up.  Overgrown weeds and shrubs, tall grass, twig piles and leaf litter. The less home they have the better.  Mosquito Joe can treat your grass on a cycle to dramatically reduce the numbers, so feel free to give us a call for more information.

How do I get rid of fleas?

The flea is no joke and getting rid of them is no joke either.  Fleas consume blood to live and they are not picky on whose blood they drink.  The easiest way to determine if you have a flea issue in your home or yard is to either walk around in some white socks and take a close look, or you can lay some white paper in your yard and check it in a few minutes.

Fleas are about 3mm long and are easiest to spot by their jumping – they can leap 7 inches and are considered the second-best jumper in the world.  They have a rapid life cycle and no one has determined how to kill them in their larval stage. There is also no way to kill them in egg form, and considering the average female lays several thousand in her lifetime (2-3 months) it is easy to see why they are so hard to manage.  Whatever pest control option you opt for, it is ESSENTIAL that you repeat it several times in order to gain control.

In Texas, particularly in the country, controlling fleas in your yard is very difficult.  While you may have a fence, a mouse, rat, deer or other wildlife can bring them in. A good rule of thumb for fleas is if you see one you have many and they will be everywhere.

There are a number of home remedies banded about on the internet.  It’s safe to say they all sound good and all work badly. If you have pets it is imperative that you treat them.  Otherwise they will shuttle your fleas back and forth for you. You must treat both the inside and the outside of your home.  You can bomb inside and then vacuum (cleaning out the bags as soon as you have finished to get rid of the eggs). Repeat this several times over a week to kill the larvae and eggs you could not kill.  For the outside you really do need a pest control company and we don’t say this to sell ourselves. Our customers who have flea treatments receive them on a regular cycle so we can gain control and maintain control over the population.  Fleas will gravitate to shady areas that are cool and sandy, so again year clean-up is important.

Next month we will tackle fruit flies, bed bugs and fire ants.

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Preparing for the 2020 mosquito season

Get your mosquito problem under control this year!

Happy New Year!  2020 is one of those years that always seemed so far off, and yet here we are, in the distant future.  2020 is the year of the rat and a leap year. The summer Olympics will be held from July 24th to August 9th in Tokyo.  The world population is expected to be 7,758,156,000.  Amazingly enough, of that population 6.1 billion will own a smart phone. This means that more people will own smartphones than have electricity.

As everyone gears up to start the new year off right, with resolutions and plans firmly fixed, we thought it would be a good idea to help you start the year off with mosquito management in mind.  It may seem like an odd month to be thinking about mosquito control, but changes you make now can have a big impact come spring. In Texas mosquitoes rarely hibernate. Temperatures need to be under 55 degrees for a week, or we need to have three deep freezes in a row for that to happen.  February brings a steady increase to the population, with a major population jump in March. What you do this month can have an impact on that population and make your spring and summer a little less itchy. So, while you are packing away the decorations, and perhaps doing some house sorting, come along with us as we guide you in some sorting outside as well.

Controlling Water in Your Yard

As we always say (and we can’t say it enough) water is your greatest enemy when it comes to controlling mosquitoes in your yard. As the leaves gather and pine needles fill the yard, it is easy to lose sight of areas in the yard holding water. It’s not just water in containers either but moist, dark soil, that will breed mosquitoes. Keeping up on the raking and leaf litter will have a big impact for you. Mosquitoes are not hibernating, so they are busy laying eggs in all those spots. If exercise is on your list of resolutions this year getting out and raking and clearing is a great way to get a workout, and the results truly will make your yard more pleasant come spring.

Once you have all the leaves and pine needles cleared, you can walk your property and spot any potential containers holding water. Plant pots, wheelbarrows, kids’ toys, tarps; anything that holds a teaspoon of water or more will be an issue. Tip over the pots, turn the wheelbarrow upside down and be sure to drain all the toys of water before you put them away. We have had customers with issues in their garage and discovered they put the kids’ toys away full of water, producing thousands of mosquitoes.

Gutters, Drains, and Down Spouts

Another important area to clean are your gutters. It’s easy to forget to look up and all those leaves and pine needles can cause huge issues. Pockets of water along with degrading leaves are a favorite for mosquitoes. If you have tire swings, be sure to drill a couple of holes in the bottom so water can drain out and do the same for your garbage cans as they can hold a lot of water if not closed tight before a rain.

Keeping up with your yard now will make a big difference in the spring. While we don’t clean gutters, Mosquito Joe will take care of all the standing water in your yard. So, if you want to start 2020 off with an itch-free aim, just give us a call. Happy New Year!

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