If you live in sunny Florida on the west coast near the Gulf of Mexico, particularly in and around Sarasota, you know that winter is usually short and mild, especially when compared to the rest of the country, most particularly the northeast, midwest, and northwest. Although it’s called the Sunshine State, it doesn’t mean summer lasts all year long and freezing conditions do occur, often during January and February.
It’s those two months, and the months of November and December, the temperatures do fall. With falling temperatures, people don their sweaters, jackets, and outerwear, as well as enjoy the comforts of heated spaces, something that isn’t available to the pests lurking about the exterior of your home nesting in the yard and elsewhere on your property. These pests too, are drawn to warmer spaces and your home is one inviting place when the temperature falls.
From the yard softscape features, to the hardscaping, and in between practically every nook and cranny, pests find shelter; but when that shelter isn’t sufficient to protect from the cold, they’ll seek out a warm place to escape. The ironic thing about this slow invasion is that you’re often the one leading those pests into your home, and, in more ways than one.
Insect and Rodent Activity During the Winter Months
A popular misconception is that many pests are inactive during the winter months, but that’s not actually always the case. Though it is a time when pests aren’t as active or high in population, they are nevertheless just as destructive. In fact, the cold is an excellent motivator for pests to do more damage to survive through the cold months. While it is true that some pests hibernate during the winter, like certain rodents, those same pests tend to do so in a congregation of large numbers.
Greasy fur coats aside, pests like rats and squirrels love to break into our toasty warm homes as temperatures drop, according to the National Pest Management Association. And Americans spend more than $4 billion per year just to get rid of them. Rodents carry all sorts of nasty diseases, like Salmonella and Hantavirus and can chew straight through wallboards and electrical wiring. —Business Insider
Insects remain active during the winter just as they do during the other seasons of the year and that can spell trouble for your landscape, particularly plants and trees, which are still an excellent food source for pests trying to survive in the cold. When the food sources come from inside your home, that means insects will continue to multiply and that spells trouble.
Ways to Keep Your Home Winter Pest Free
The best way to protect your home from the destructive forces of pests is to secure it and your belongings in ways that repel said pests. Here are some ways to keep your home free of winter pests, including some suggestions from the National Pest Management Association:
- Seal it, then store it. So many of us are guilty of storing away personal possessions in an expedient, convenient way. While cardboard boxes are a very common solution, they pose no barrier to pests. Cardboard is easy to penetrate but sealed, heavy plastic storage bins are not accessible to most pests. These will protect your possessions and keep pests at-bay.
- Keep a tight lid on your food. Speaking of plastic containers, those are the same things to use for food storage. Be it snacks or pet food, if its tightly sealed, it preserves food items and doesn’t become a feast for pests.
- Don’t let garbage pile up. When the garbage in the kitchen fills-up to the brim, don’t wait until tomorrow morning to cinch the bag up and throw it into the garbage bin. Do it then and nocturnal pests won’t find a midnight snack while you’re snoozing away.
- Cover any openings to your home. Any cracks or holes on the exterior walls should be sealed up, and entryways such as chimney vents should be screened. Make sure to inspect the exterior of your home thoroughly for any possible openings.
- Make repairs outside your house. Replace loose mortar and install new weatherstripping anywhere it’s needed to keep heating costs down and pests out.
- Direct water away from your home. Keep gutters and downspouts free of debris and make sure that water flows away from your home.
- Store firewood away from your home’s immediate exterior. Firewood should never be store against your home’s exterior. Put it twenty or more feet away and use as much of it as possible so it doesn’t become a home for pests when winter is over.
Another thing to do is to stay alert and up-to-date with what’s going on in areas of your home that aren’t usually inspected. Your attic is a great example, it’s a perfect places for pests to nest during the winter, so poke around periodically and look for telltale signs, such as gnawed wires and droppings. If you find either, deal with it right away to avoid being hit with a big cost.
If you have a garden, or another feature that has a visually designated shape, but no real border, you’ve probably grown tired of the encroachment between your lawn and it. For years, the way to separate the two was found in a simple solution that did set a boundary between lawn and garden, or lawn and planter. It was a shallow trench, dug and cut to create a defined edge of grass, which ran along the often curved line of the planter or garden.
Unfortunately, there’s an ongoing problem with such a solution. It would fill with grass while mowing; what’s more, it would slowly be littered with mulch from the planter, requiring time and effort to clean out. This, not to mention the fact that the trench had to be periodically dug again and re-cut to stay defined. That’s a lot of work with very little function. Eventually, homeowners were introduced to lawn edging.
It comes in several forms and in a variety of materials. Lawn edging can be found in home improvement stores and nurseries everywhere. It’s available in wood, composite material, metal, brick, and plastic. What’s more, it comes in a wide variety of sizes and colors, allowing homeowners to pick one type that best fits their wants and needs.
Lawn Edging Functions
The function of lawn edging is quite remarkable, given how simple it is. Not does it only separate a lawn from a garden, from a planter, or from another feature, it actually stops grass from encroaching into the the planter mulch or garden soil. The reason is because grass is spread through what’s known as “stolons.” It’s a botanical term with a simple explanation–it grows upward, eventually bending its top down or grows horizontally, and thus, spreads the growth of grass. This is why you’re constantly having to pull grass from your mulch or garden soil.
Mowing strips, regardless of their complexity and ornamentation, are essentially paved borders that separate gardens from lawns. In addition to the functionality that comes from not having to worry about cutting the grass too close to your garden plants, they add aesthetic appeal that, if coordinated with other paved areas in your landscape, contributes harmony and visual balance to your property. It’s relatively inexpensive to make your own mowing strip, and requires items commonly found in most home and garden stores. —San Francisco Chronicle
Fabricated edging prevents that natural phenomenon from happening and thereby, keeps your garden soil or planter mulch grass-free. Edging also works to prevent mulch from spilling out onto your lawn, which is broadcast further out, thanks to your mower. Edging also serves as an aesthetic feature, clearly defining two spaces. It likewise can serve as a mower strip or mowing strip. Instead of mowing next to it and then using a string or line trimmer, you actually run the wheels of the mower along the top of it, which eliminates the need for further trimming.
Mowing Strip Installation Guide
To take advantage of this wonderful, yet very simple, lawn and garden feature tool, you only need visit your local nursery or home improvement center. There, you’ll find many choices in color, size, and material. Choose one that fits into your “theme” and be sure to purchase enough to completely separate your garden or planter from your lawn. To install it, follow these steps:
- Cut along the border of your garden or mulch. Using a spade shovel, place the tip right at the edge of your mulch or garden and use one foot to sink the spade shovel into the ground, then, pry it a bit to create a small fissure. Do this along the length of your mulch or garden to have a clear line to follow.
- Dig a small trench. Now use your spade shovel to dig out along that line, unearthing the grass. You can either choose to compost the sod or shovel it into a heap and let it degrade into loam. The depth and the width of the trench should be commensurate with the size of the edging you purchased.
- Line the bottom of the trench. Washed sand works quite well and provides a very effective barrier to keep weeds and grass from growing up through it. The lining should be about 1 inch to 2 inches thick, and evenly distributed across the bottom of the trench.
- Cover the lining with gravel. Once the trench has been evenly lined with sand, cover the lining with gravel and then use a hand tamper to compact it down. This will create a sturdy base so your mower strip doesn’t sink into the ground when you run your machine over it while cutting the grass.
- Insert the edging into the trench. Place the strip into the trench pushing down on it to further compact the base and make it steady within the trench. Backfill any gaps as necessary to finish.
Now, you can cut your lawn with your mower without having to trim along the edge of your garden or mulch.
Outdoor awnings are a terrific way to lessen the glare of the sun and reduce the amount of ambient heat coming into the home. They are also decorative and provide an aesthetic improvement to a home’s exterior, deck, or, patio. If you are thinking of adding an outdoor awning to your home, you won’t need extensive contracting experience to do so. In fact, the whole project should take no more than a few hours to complete with the aid of a helping hand.
How to Install an Outdoor Awning for Shade
The great thing about an awning is it serves more than one function. These can be decorative, helping to continue an aesthetic theme of your backyard landscape. In addition, awnings are a cost-effective way of reducing energy use in your home.
Shade Awning Function
The shade an awning provides does much to protect the surface of a deck or patio, and, also protects outdoor furniture fabric from fading and becoming frail. It offers protection from falling debris and other objects while cooking outdoors on a grill.
Creative designers and architects can develop useful and intriguing designs for modern awning and canopy systems that incorporate shape, light, color, texture, graphics and structure, at modest cost. Most awning frames are custom made by cutting, bending and welding metal tubing, and fitting the fabric to the frame. With these custom methods, almost any shape and size can be attained and covered with awning fabric. Hence, the same surface can serve at least three necessary functions: weather protection, identification and architecture. —Awnings.com
If you attach an awning to your home’s exterior to extend over a deck or patio, you’ll also be providing the same protection from the sun on your interior flooring and any furniture that’s under the sun’s rays. In addition to these functions, an awning also does much for energy efficiency. Heat transfer is greatest in windows and doors, which are notorious among homeowners for being energy wasters. During the Sarasota summer months, this is especially important, as an awning can reduce heat transfer for southern windows and doors by 55 to 65 percent. For westerly-facing windows and doors, that figure climbs between 72 to 77 percent.
Do it Yourself Awning Installation
Installing an awning to extend over a patio or deck is not complicated. You really don’t need the skills of an experienced contractor, but, it definitely helps to be handy with common household tools. While you won’t need any specialize tools and/or construction skills, you will need a few key things to install an awning yourself:
What You’ll Need:
- Tape measure
- Screw gun and screws
- Caulking gun
- Aluminum awning
- Awning brackets
- Drill and bits
Once you have all your tools and materials ready-to-go, you can then proceed with the installation.
Outdoor Shade Awning Installation Guide
Be sure to wear eye-protection and gloves; it is also beneficial to wear a dust mask if you are pre-drilling pilot holes to secure it to the exterior.
- Measure once, measure twice. Measure the space where the awning will hang. Write down the width and depth of the porch. Go to a home improvement store or shed retailer and purchase an aluminum awning that conforms to your porch’s size. It is far more cost- and time- efficient to purchase a prefabricated awning than attempting to scrounge up the necessary materials from different sources, buying each separately and matching them for uniformity.
- Get ready, get set, go. Situate one ladder under the porch eve and the other at the end of the awning. Run a straight-line bead of caulking along the porch eve with a caulking gun. While your helper holds the awning in place, secure it to the eve with screws using a screw gun. While your helper continues to hold the end of the awning up, climb onto the roof overlooking the awning. Spread more caulking between awning and the eve. This is known as the “marriage joint”.
- Finish the installation. Fold the awning brackets down, if applicable, and set the bracket cleat against the exterior wall of the house. If the brackets are not attached, affix them to the awning with screws, then caulk the screw holes from both sides to prevent rusting. You may have to drill pilot holes in the exterior wall with a drill and appropriate sized bit.
Depending on the size and type of awning you purchased and installed, it might be able to raise and lower it when desired. Some awnings are designed to retract, while others swing on hinge joints, so you can raise or lower them for maximum shade. If it is retractable or does close, it’s a good idea to secure it in the retracted or down position when a storm is forecast to approach.