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Keep Calm and Leave the AC On

by Erin Spencer / June 4, 2018

As the summer sun slowly starts to peak over the horizon, many Texans will be traversing  indoors this year to experience that little bit of modern magic we like to call air-conditioning.

AC isn't just a luxury it's a life-saver, especially in urban settings. However, that doesn't mean there aren't some downfalls. Aside from their contribution to green house gases, old filters and inefficient machines can actually make you sick, and paying for your AC can be expensive, especially when you're cooling down an entire household. However, there are ways to improve the quality and affordability of your AC system without changing a thing about it. Just add plants!

Plants Improve Air Quality

There are so many benefits plants have on our health and well-being. They can decrease stress, increase happiness, improve our mental health, and improve the quality of the air we breath.

We all know, from grade school, that plants convert CO2, water, and light energy into sugars leaving Oxygen as a byproduct. But, you may not have realized all the air pollutants that get filtered out along the way. In a clean air study published by NASA in 1989 they conducted research on over a dozen tropical and subtropical plant species to see their affect on the levels of harmful organic compounds commonly found in household air. This included trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene, and ammonia. The experiments proved to be a great success. Nearly all the plants were shown to remove at least 10% of a given chemical within a 24 hour period with some removing as much as 80%.

AC units filter particulates out of the air like pollen, dust, and dirt. However, they limit our use of outdoor ventilation and can allow for a buildup of indoor pollutants. By utilizing plants natural processes, house plants can be used in conjunction with clean air filters to considerably improve the quality of the air we breath.

If you need house-plant suggestions check out these two links, The best air-cleaning plants according to Nasa, and 17 Amazing Houseplants that Clean the Air.

Plants save you money

Improving the landscaping on the outside of your house can decrease the amount of money you need to spend cooling it. You just need to know what kind of plants to grow and where.

Through various studies complied by the EPA, shading and evapotranspiration provided by trees were shown to reduce the surrounding air temperature by 6 degrees Fahrenheit cutting cooling costs by 7-47%. To accomplish this you should plant trees on the east and west side of your building to direct southerly summer breezes towards the house. To get the most shade plant deciduous trees with a high crown on the east side of your building and deciduous trees with a lower crown on the west side. Ideally, the trees should be slow-growing with a max height of at least 20 feet. Deciduous trees with a high crown block more sun from above in the morning, as the sun begins to set a lower crown is better to block the hot afternoon rays. Because the trees are deciduous, they will create shade in summer and allow the sun to heat your home in winter. Evergreen shrubs and trees are great to use as a wind break and can be planted on the northern side of your home to block cold fronts from making things too chilly.

Plant smaller plants, trees, and shrubs around pavement, patios, and walkways to create even more of a cooling effect. Shading your AC unit directly can increase its efficiency,  but don’t plant anything within a 2 foot radius, otherwise you have the potential to disturb the airflow and make it run less smoothly.

If you need additional help feel free to give us a call, or contact us through our website! Our designers are available to create the perfect landscape for you that is energy/water efficient and beautiful at the same time.

Don’t Fear the Frost

by Erin Spencer / January 3, 2018

In Austin, when someone says they're worried about how the weather will affect their plants, that usually means  heat or drought. However, every winter there always seems to be that one cold snap that takes out half your garden bed without you realizing it, and you're left feeling  completely confused. 

That's why we're here to help! Here are our tips for how to combat the cold, so you can continue to enjoy your landscape all year long. H

1. Stick with Styrofoam: The tips of the cactus are the most sensitive to frost damage, because that's where they put out new growth. A styrofoam cup is heavy enough to where it won't fly off, and the warm air trapped inside helps the cactus get through those chilly nights.

2. Take out a Towel: For some plants it's best to cover them completely with a towel, burlap sack, or blanket. This traps in heat and also helps prevent frost crystals from forming on your plant. Remember to take off your sheet when it starts to warm up again, otherwise moisture can condense inside and freeze in the next frost.

3. Water them Well: I know it seems counterintuitive to water your plants right before a frost, but that's actually one of the best things you can do for them. Water acts as a insulator, trapping in more heat than dry aerated soil. Plump, water filled leaves will be more protected against cold damage, which can quickly dry out a plant.

DON'T DO THIS WITH SUCCULENTS! Succulents prefer dry soil, and their specialized leaves can burst in the cold if they have been given too much water.

4. Pause, don't Panic: Even if your plant does experience some frost damage that doesn't mean it's dead. Sometimes, all it needs is a good pruning to get right back to its old self. Wait until spring  to see the difference between healthy stems and dead before you prune. Pruning too early will expose the plant to further frost damage, which could result in the entire plant's eventual end.