Tag Archives: pests

How to Combat Moles and other Critters in the Garden

There’s a gentle guy among us with a beautiful garden in Scotts Valley who’s a serial killer – a killer of moles, that is. "The first one’s the toughest"  he said while showing me around the other day. Caddyshack has nothing on this determined gardener and from the look of his landscaping he’s definitely winning the battle.

This mild mannered vegetarian started planting trees 20 years ago when he moved to the property but says he became serious about gardening only 5 years ago. He has created lush-looking, low water landscaping in his extremely sandy soil, watering some areas only once per summer. And oh, did I mention, he shares his garden with deer, too?

Many of us battle some of these same issues. How does he win the war while watching his garden grow? He used to have gophers, too, but after using cinch and Macabee traps for the past couple of years there are not too many left on the property. The moles are a different story. They have the ability to learn testing our mental prowess in the process.

He has found that one of the best ways to keep moles from destroying his garden is to install perimeter fencing around the beds. Gardening by exclusion he calls it. Cinch traps are successful, too, and he’s killed 16 so far this year. It’s not that the moles eat the plants but their burrowing dislodges roots and the plants will die the next time it gets hot. He digs down 24" and sinks a gopher wire barrier, one area at a time.  Paths are left bare so he can see if they are encroaching. Moles can tunnel 17 hours a day and ruin an area in just a couple of hours so he has become ever vigilant.

Deer control comes from plant selection and a product he gets on the internet that contains a bittering agent found in antifreeze, anti-nail biting and cleaning products among other household items.  Having used other taste and smell repellents containing rotten eggs, garlic, blood meal, citrus, ammonia, hot pepper and coyote urine, he swears by this product. His garden contains many plants he considers "bullet proof" like lambs ears, lions tail, hot lips salvia, breath of heaven, tagetes, armeria, asteriscus, carnations, dietes, Little John callistemon, mimulus, westringea and society garlic to name just a few. He plants "what works".

What hasn’t worked with his deer population is vinca that used to grow under the oaks. Wandering jew has successfully taken over and he’s OK with that. "Why fight it?" is his mantra. Plants he protects with Bitrex are daylily flowers, star jasmine, correa, penstemon, some sedums and the flowers on the aloe. He grows lots of different aloes, yucca and agaves, rescuing many from garbage piles and propagating others. He has 4 acres to cover.  There’s also a huge Angel’s trumpet under the oaks that he started from a cutting 4 years ago.

In one garden a huge Breath of Heaven has grown 9 ft tall. Nearby is a handsome small tree from So. Africa, Podocarpus henkelii or Long-leafed Yellow-wood. Eventually it will grow to 25 ft but is only half that size now. The foliage is distinctive and dense with heavy, shiny, dark green drooping leaves, giving it a weeping look. It is truly a specimen tree. His euphorbia collection includes a variety that looks like an azalea with chartreuse flowers. A very large stand of crocosmia was started from a 4" pot. Fortunately it’s planted in the right spot.

So much to see, so little time. Everywhere I looked was another beautiful vignette- accenting a dry river bed in one area, a fire pit with log seating in another. I learned so much from this gentle, determined gardener.

Snails, Perennials,Compost & Caterpillars- Oh my!

It’s no secret we live in paradise. No hurricanes or tornadoes wreak havoc in this beautiful place we call home. We’re spoiled and we know it. Enjoy every minute when you go into the garden. This month there are a few garden tasks you might consider doing while you’re out  "smelling the roses".

#1 Slug & snail fall population control drive
Slugs and snails turn into egg-laying machines in fall. That’s because they know they may not survive the long, cold winter and therefore, need to lay lots of eggs now that will hatch in spring. They want to ensure that there will be plenty of offspring to carry on the important work of devouring our plants. Snails build up populations faster than slugs because they reproduce more often but both are good at adding to the population.

In fall, the average snail can lay up to 85 eggs and each slug can lay up to 100 at a shot. Apply one of the safer
slug and snail baits containing iron sulfate. You’ll never get them all, but applying bait now should help reduce the number of slugs and snails that will hatch and make your life miserable next spring.

#2 Economic stimulus package for perennials
If flowers on perennial plants such as aster, campanula, calla lily, daisies, daylily, rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan) and yarrow were smaller than normal this year or your plants are just too big and crowded, it’s time to divide them. Dig out each clump so the rootball come up intact. This will take a little muscle but think of all those calories you’re burning in the process.. Gently shake off or wash off excess soil and divide with a sharp knife, pruning shears or a shovel I like to use an old serrated bread knife for this. Each division should have leaves and plenty of roots Replant each immediately. You’ll increase the number of your plants and save a lot of money, too.

#3 Plant debris makes good…
As summer flowers and vegetables give way to new plantings, add old, disease-free plants and debris to a compost pile or bin. Compost only pest-free weeds, fallen leaves and fruit. Also mix in kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds and grass clipping. Chop up large pieces so they break down faster. Keep the pile moist like a wrung-out sponge. Depending on temperature , the size of the material in the pile and whether you use a barrel composter or an open pile, compost can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months to mature.

Diseased plant debris should be put in your compost can where the hight heat of a commercial compost operation will break it down. Cleaning up fallen, leaves, fruit and other debris will reduce the number of sites that harbor insects and diseases over the winter, too.

#4 Caterpillar wars
Don’t let the caterpillars get to your cabbage first. If you see small holes in the leaves or if the new growth is chewed on your cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli plants, they are probably being attacked by caterpillars. Search leaves and pick off and destroy or spray with organic BT ( bacillius thuringiensis) or spinosad  ( Capt. Jack’s Deadbug Brew )

#5 Enjoy Indian Summer. Winter will be here all too soon !
 

Spider Mites

That’s a good question
If you notice the leaves on some of your plants appear stippled or flecked with pale dots and have fine webbing, especially on the undersides, you have a spider mite infestation. These pests thrive during dry weather and their populations can get out of hand by August.

Mites puncture plant cells with their mouthparts, then suck the plant fluid. The tiny areas of leaf tissue that have been killed appear as tiny dots on the the leaves. Mites often go unnoticed because they are tiny and natural controls such as weather and predators frequently keep their populations low. Severe infestations often result because these natural controls have been disrupted by pesticides and excessive dust.

Control spider mites on fruit and nut trees, azalea, fuchsia, maples and rose by regular, forceful spraying of plants with water to rinse dust and dirt off both sides of leaves. If you do have to spray to control an outbreak use insecticidal soap or a light spray oil. Sulfur is effective in reducing populations of some spider mites but this dust can disrupt beneficial predaceous mites.

Avoid using broad-spectrum pesticides which disrupt biological controls. When applied for other pests during hot weather, these can cause dramatic outbreaks of mites within just a few days even though their label may say they control mites.

Although a young or weak plant may not survive a severe spider mite infestation, it is not usually fatal to a vigorously growing tree or plant. The best defense is a good offense – periodically spray your plants with water in the morning to keep them clean and dust free.

Microclimates, Rainfall and Pests

Gardening in our microclimates might be challenging and it’s no different here in Maui. Yes, despite the balmy weather, the rainfall here limits what plants thrive. You can drive 5 minutes from an area that receives 400" of rainfall per year to another spot 10 minutes away that gets only 19" per year. Then drive another 15 minutes and you’re in a desert-like area with annual rainfall of 10" while the east side of the island, in Hana, is getting 83 inches.

Gardeners in Maui in several ways just as we do. One way is to grow the right plant in the right place. For example, at 4000 ft elevation near the volcano, 55,000 lavender plants  of 45 varieties grow happily in rocky soil. Olive trees – brought over from Santa Cruz – dot the fields. Interesting to note that the lavender plants provide a natural pesticide against the ants that invade the protea flowers. Proteas do well here. Reminded me not to miss our spectacular show of proteas  at the UC Arboretum in April and May. If you’ve never walked through this free garden it’s a treat not to be missed.

If you think all the soil here is of volcanic origin, think again. Of the 12 types of soil in the world, 7 different orders occur here.   The state of Hawaii, as a whole, has 11 types, more than any other state in the United States. By comparison, Maine has only 4 types while the Santa Cruz Mountains has a whopping 9 orders just in our little corner of the world.  Yes, folks, that’s right. No wonder gardening can be a challenge where we live.  What thrives up the road from you doesn’t always grow the same in your yard. Knowledge of soil behavior and nutrients is important where ever you garden.

Maui has a native pea, a native coffeeberry and a native huckleberry just as we do.There is even a native hydrangea although the type we are most familiar with was brought over from Japan in 1790.  Mostly, you see flowering plants introduced from other parts of the world.  Since the 1800’s, people have been bringing all types of plants to the island just like early settlers did to our area. Many of the plants that we commonly grow like the Princess flower ( tibouchina ) and strawberry guava are invasive here. Others like blue plumbago bloom in the drier areas and behave themselves. Gardeners here face the same problems as we do and strive not to dilute the native gene pool.

The rain in Maui is distributed throughout the year which is different than our Mediterranean climate. Before you get jealous, though, this allows slugs, white fly and fungus to proliferate year round. I see mealy bug under most of the plumeria leaves. This intoxicatingly fragrant tree is easy to propagate and grows everywhere on the islands. If you get at least 6 hours of hot sun per day and keep them inside or a greenhouse above 50 degrees at night they will bloom even in our area.

I’ve enjoyed my time in Maui but there’s no place like home.