Dead Trees and the Threat to Our Homes

The drought is not done, but we may be dealing with the effects sooner that you realize. Large dead trees threaten our homes.

He looks across to his neighbors yard, and asks me if that tree is dead. This was a smaller tree about twenty feet tall. Leaves were a tan/brown. All the leaves were that color, and they were all on the tree. Yes, it was dead. That guy does not take care of his yard, was the response. True, but I have noticed this with more homes. I was at a short sale home doing an inspection, noticing that many bushes were dead. A dead bush or a smaller dead tree may not be a threat to the home, but they are a cost. New owners will have to replant or at least take these dead specimens from the yard. Where I begin to worry is the much larger trees.
dead pine tree
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Is Getting Rid of Your Lawn the Hot New Trend?


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I have the tendency to meander through a neighborhood, looking at houses, when I complete a home inspection. Maybe I am seeing the beginning of a trend.

My wife stares down the street, stating that many people are letting their grass die. I point out that it is not only grass. A garden shows how people feel about their homes, and the water restrictions have made some of those feelings more clear. She wonders how people can simply let what they have go to dust. My wife enjoys gardens, but she is not a gardener. She believes that homes should be maintained, so that is the origin of her concern. For me, a garden should reflect something of the character of the homeowners, and the yard around your home should make you enjoy being in that space. When I see a yard of grass with a few shrubs against the home, I think boring and standard. However, I have noticed a few changes happening to homes in neighborhoods where I often drive: grass is being taken out to be replaced by landscaping.
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What is the Best Mulch in Drought Conditions?


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Are all mulches created equal? I use cedar mulch for insect control, and I have rock mulch for decoration. I have a compost mulch made from prunings around the house. With the water restrictions in place, I noticed something about my mulches.

rock mulchI interacted with a group of real estate agents who were criticizing a green building technique as horrible. They thought it was new, and they did not understand it, so they dismissed it. The fact was that the technique is millennia old. I know fellow home inspectors who also do not give credence to what they see as fringe building techniques. I came to realize that there are old solutions to current problems, yet we go along blind to them. With the water restrictions in place, I hear people discussing ways to keep their gardens alive. I have used the condensate water from my air conditioning system for quite some time to water my garden beds, yet others are discussing this as a new concept. We are paying attention more to which plants can handle the heat and lack of water (my poor azaleas do not fare well), yet focusing on native plants or appropriate plants for a certain area has also long been part of the gardener’s repertoire. The one thing we do not seem to be including in our discussions is how have we farmed deserts in the past. Humans have farmed dry conditions previously, so there must be some solutions. Could these fixes revolve around mulch?
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A Look at Winter Vegetables in the Summer Garden


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Winter vegetables do grow during our summer heat, but common knowledge states that they will not have a great taste during the summer months. This may not be the case.

I would love to travel to a drought free zone to find the lush jungle of a summer garden. Many of my plants are under stress, which means that they are not producing. The hot peppers keep providing me with spice for my meals. The basil abundantly fills its space. The grape vines run along their trellis, so stuffed grape leaves are on the table. However, being cautious with my watering means that the garden is not lush. I was so grateful for the rain last week, and the ground still holds that moisture, which makes me wonder why neighbors were watering their gardens for hours on end. I could be like the neighbor behind my house; let the garden die of thirst. I did notice that a few winter vegetables were doing well in this heat and lower water, but this is not the time to eat them, or is it?
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Dealing with a Drought in Your Garden


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When is the last time you had rain? Parts of the country are experiencing flooding, and in Houston, we are dealing with higher than normal temperatures coupled with no rain.

My last water bill was quite high. My goal is to reduce my water consumption, so I was not too happy with my behavior that led to this unwanted expense. In my mind, I was justifying my actions with the fact that food prices are rising, and I am growing vegetables to counter those prices (a note in the grocery store today pointed out that many crops have been damaged by the weather, so prices will fluctuate). I was also thinking of my foundation. Keeping the ground at a consistent moisture level will help the house. However, this bill brought my focus back to my goal. Yes, I could justify my actions, but I could not really. I, like all of my neighbors, will have to make choices to deal with the drought.
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The Drought and My Houston Garden


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Waiting for rain that never seems to come, I am looking for ways to reduce my watering. What strategies may we use.

There have been days with a mist of water on the ground on a few mornings. Is that why, they say that Houston is not in the extreme drought that the surrounding areas are already in? My latest project is creating spots to hold  water from the rain. Swales to catch water that is running off the property, but which are far from creating pools by the foundation. I had a large plastic pot from a tree that I overturned and placed into a hole to deal with one spot that has a water pool when it rains. I am thinking of adding more of these water basins. Finally I have more trenches to catch the water flow before it leaves my property. (I wonder if I can convince the city that this should reduce my drainage fee- wild hopes continue).
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Greetings

This site came out of my desire to write about my love of gardening, but also to connect it to my knowledge derived from home inspections. That is why I tied it to the home inspection site.If you have questions, you can email them to me (frank at yourhoustonhomeinspector.com). For home inspections, call 713.781.6090.
Happy gardening, Frank

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