Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Garden Pests & Rodents

Tips on how to prevent every living creature from entering your garden



It’s the common fate of any gardener, from the pros to the novice-You walk out to your recently lush garden to see it has been reduced to vegetative stubble. You may dream and scheme up many medieval tactics on how to exact your revenge on your garden foes, but reality kicks in and a guillotine placed nonchalantly outside your lettuce bed may raise a few eyebrows and break a few zoning laws. There are options on prevention that will save you the pain of seeing all your hard work get ruined.



The Good Insect



Yes, they do exist. For example, if you have a nasty bug problem in your garden, your best defense is to get what likes to eat it-it’s mortal enemy in the insect kingdom.











It turns out some people have actually made a profitable business out of these “good bugs”, and you can order your very own version of natural selection through the catalog or online. They have a funny futuristic name for these bugs-Biological Control Agents. Somehow I keep picturing beetles equipped with lasers and capable of tactical maneuverings. But these good bugs have revolutionized the agricultural business and saved crops across the globe from being wiped out by ravenous insects. Some examples of these helpful bugs are the praying mantis, lady beetle, green lacewing, predatory mite, fly parasite, mealybug destroyer, whitefly parasite, aphio parasite, cabbage-root-maggot predator, and the red scale parasite.



Here are some suppliers of these bugs:



1. Arbico- Free catalog upon request. Mail to: PO Box 8910, Tucson, AZ 85738-0910. http://www.arbico.com



2. Beneficial Insectary- 9964 Tanqueray Qt., Redding, CA 96003. 1-800-477-3715. http://www.insectary.com



3. M&R Durango Insectary-PO Box 886, Bayfield, CO 81122. 1-800-526-4075. http://www.goodbug.com



For animals like raccoons, squirrels, dogs, and even deer, you can deter them from entering your garden patch by getting a sprinkler system called the “Garden Cop”. This handy device comes equipped with a sensor that detects motion and sprays water. It will shut off automatically so you won’t have to worry about wasting water, and as soon as it shuts off it silently scans the area again for any more intruders. You can purchase this from most garden supply stores.



  Birds

The old fashioned yet timeless scarecrow makes an excellent defense against birds of all types. When you are making your own for your garden, make sure that the figure is able to sway slightly





in the wind (to look like it’s alive), hang shiny foil strips from it’s sleeves to be the hands, and make the face out of an aluminum pie tin. The shine from the metal plus the motion is what freaks out our feathered foes. Another way to combat the hungry birds is to plant your seeds extra deep so they can’t peck at the ground and eat them before they’ve had a chance to grow. Also it is a good idea instead of just planting one seed, to plant 3 in each hole-One for the ground, one for the bird, and one for the bug. They also sell now netting that you can either throw over your fruit trees or that you can stretch across your veggie rows.



Deer

This was my parents’ greatest garden nemesis. Deer are pretty enough to watch when they are grazing on the lawn in the morning or early evening, but if you see them one day slowly destroying your pea patch, you suddenly get a craving for some Bambi Burgers.



What my folks did was to get electric fencing and put that around both their large garden beds. The only downside is that you have to remember to turn it off before you go in to weed or pick some veggies, and that it will obviously cause your electric bill to go up.



To avoid the cost and getting zapped, a simple fence will do the trick, as long as it is high enough to prevent the deer from jumping over it. Around your gardens edge sink in heavy sturdy poles and stretch 4 ‘ tall fencing (chicken wire works well) around the perimeter. Make sure the wire goes all the way to the bottom to prevent smaller rodents like rabbits and squirrels from getting in. You can even attach to the top of your fence some barbed wire to prevent any Olympic high jumping feats.



You’d also be surprised what you can use both cheaply and effectively to prevent deer from demolishing your vegetables. Some examples are human hair, human urine (have the husband and boys take a leak around the perimeter for fun), rotten eggs, park the dogs outside, or simply spray their favorite garden snack with some hot pepper spray.



Gophers



Besides destroying your lawn with their tunnel network and making riding the lawn mower both bumpy and futile, they also managed to find a way to make your life a living hell by finding their way into your garden.



You could go the route of trying traps, poison bait and gases. Your local gardening store will have these, but I don’t like to use anything that could accidentally kill the good animals that mean no harm or the house pets.



Another option is digging down 2’ around the entire perimeter or your garden and sinking into the ground a “wall” of hard plastic.





Castor beans work great, they are poisonous so gophers avoid them at all costs. Try planting them between your rows or plants if you have a serious gopher problem and are out of options.



Rats & Mice



You could avoid these critter problems by just getting a young hungry cat that you keep outdoors, like a barn cat, where it gets most of its food from hunting. Also you can spread some poison, but again be careful where you put the poison so it doesn’t kill something else by accident.



Moles

These furry creatures like to make their tunnels close to the surface. You can recognize their mounds by the volcano shape with the hole right in the center. Like gophers, they will avoid castor beans because they are





poisonous, so interplant those between your veggies. There is another plant they hate, called the Mole Plant (Euphorbia lathyris). This plant self-seeds the next year, making your life a little easier. Also castor beans, even if you take the plant out of the ground, the mole repelling effect lasts for quite a bit of time afterwards.



  Rabbits



These cute and cuddly pests hate two plants, Alliums and Mexican Marigolds. Plant lots between rows. Also like the fencing mentioned above, make sure that if it’s chicken wire that it’s small enough so they





can’t squeeze through and straight to the ground so they can’t wiggle underneath.



Raccoons



These are tricky to prevent getting into your crops. They love to climb up trees, fence posts, anything really, to drop in and eat your plants. One thing that does attract them is compost heaps.



So make sure yours is tightly covered with a lid or has been recently turned over with the soil on the top and the kitchen scraps buried below. No scents is key! Also if you do have a big raccoon problem in your area, don’t put your compost near your garden. Keep it a safe distance away. Another tactic is to put some hot wires to your fence, one at half a foot the other at a foot. This will prevent the raccoons from being able to climb the posts and get in. You can also just make your fencing of chicken wire extra tall, about 6 feet will work, and the last foot of the fence you slant away from the garden to prevent them from jumping in. They are also excellent diggers, so it is a good idea to dig down a couple feet around your perimeter and sink the chicken wire in.



Snails and Slugs



These slimy fiends are easy enough to prevent. You can save your eggshells from the kitchen, crush them to a fine powder, and sprinkle them in your garden beds where you find the most of





these slimy things. The shells stick to them and kill them. Also putting out a saucer of milk and water, or beer, sunk in so that it is at ground level, will tempt them to crawl in and drown. There are some plants that will work too to prevent them from intruding. One is called Prostrate Rosemary, and it is its sharp foliage that they dislike. But at all costs, do not use salt against them. Although it will kill the slugs, it also will kill your garden plants.

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