Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith, wrote the following: The driver of the car at the stop light next to me looked rather aghast when I broke into a hearty laugh this morning. I guess some radio and TV facts are just meant to be light hearted even though reported in a most serious manner, for example, the obnoxious little black flies that are so prevalent this spring are called buffalo gnats. Do you know why? Because they have a hump in their back. With no disrespect intended to those folks who study insects, that “need-to-know” fact really struck my funny bone.
Not so funny is in the onslaught of beetles again this year. Just a reminder, do not spray edible plants to rid the beetles. Traps seem fairly effective. The traps do attract the little critters in addition to killing them so it is suggested you locate traps at the ends of your property.
The ugly tunnels in your lawn are probably mole trails. Another little known fact is that moles eat more than their own weight in worms daily. Worms are good for the soil. They constantly aerate the earth. Keep the worms; eradicate the moles. The most practical method of eviction is a scissor or harpoon type trap. Locate the active tunnel by tamping down all of the tunnels. Place the trap in the one the mole reopens.
And then there are the garden invaders, the ground hogs, rabbits and raccoons. Probably the best offense against them is a good fence. Hardware cloth or wire mesh should be at least 1½ to 2 ft. tall supported with wood or metal stakes. Bury the fence into the ground a bit or secure it down with landscape pins. Repellents are somewhat effective, but more costly as they need to be reapplied after each heavy rain. You could consider live traps, but the last time we tried live traps, an opossum was smarter than we were. We did capture two cats, though.
And, finally, Oh! Deer! It is best to discourage deer before they become accustomed to the delicacies in your garden or yard. The most reliable deer prevention maintenance is a fence. However, a deer proof fence will be at least eight feet tall which can be a costly venture, be aesthetically unattractive, and possible prohibited by local building codes. Repellents and scare tactics are ineffective as deer ignore them. Try temporary fences around new plants and special plants. Deer may force you to choose plants that are less tasty to them, have an unusual texture, or a strong aroma. Call your local extension office (in Linn County 447-0647) for a list of deer resistant plants. Perhaps impractical in some cases, a good dog will be as efficient as anything else you might try.
The following is by Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:
March marked the start of our transition from winter to spring. Now that the snow has melted (we hope,) it’s a good time to examine your trees for winter damage. We often expect our trees to be self sufficient and tend to neglect their well-being.
After the frost is gone, thoroughly water trees that have been subjected to de-icing compounds. This will move the chemicals through the soil and away from the tree roots. Watering before the ground thaws will create runoff and pollute soil and ground water.
If your trees need to be fertilized, wait until the ground has completely thawed. Fertilizer run off wastes money and also contributes to groundwater pollution.
If, and only if, an insect problem exists, dormant oil sprays can be used once the temperature reaches a constant 40 degrees. Dormant oils are used to control some scale insects and overwintering insects.
Rabbits and voles girdle trunks at the base. Damage will appear as a lighter area on the trunk, primarily as teeth marks. The damage interrupts the flow of water and nutrients to the roots. While you have no recourse for the damage, it is wise to monitor the health of the tree as severe damage can kill a tree.
Tree wraps should be removed in the spring as the temperature warms.
Complete pruning prior to trees leafing out. Storm damaged branches should be removed as they occur.
If you’re planning on adding trees to your landscape, now is a good time to visit our local nurseries and greenhouses for suggestions and recommendations. Personally, I’m going to find the shadiest spot under the big walnut to plant my chair and enjoy my favorite summer beverage.
The following is by Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:
The critters sense that the weather outside will be—already is—frightful. I almost need traffic signals and turn lanes in my yard and driveway where the squirrels are frantically harvesting nuts from the walnut trees. Canadian geese have noisily moved in mass overhead traveling south. I’ve not had feedback from the deer, but they must have felt the hosta in my xeriscape was especially tasty as they have, again, totally decimated all of them as they prepare for winter snow cover.
You see, we live in the country and our road ditch is steep, difficult to weed whip and impossible to mow. We created an attractive xeriscape using mulch to cover grass and weeds and rock to stop an area of erosion, then added a few perennials for interest. Maintenance has been minimal. This spring we plan to xeriscape a smaller area on the other side of the lane. An article in a recent Master Gardener’s newsletter sparked my interest in perennial ornamental grasses. Linn County Master Gardener, Becki Lynch says ornamental grasses have few enemies. Deer, rabbits, squirrels, even insects seem to not be interested in them. Becki describes the grasses as “beautiful, regal, feather topped, silver sheened, golden stemmed, ten feet tall, back-lit by the sun and swaying in gentle breezes.” After established, ornamental grasses are drought resistant. You can fertilize them—or not. They do like mulch. And, ornamental grasses come in a multitude of heights, shapes and textures. Ornamental grasses sound like a plan to me. What do you think? Oh, when, oh when will seed catalogs start to arrive?
Even if we can’t work outside in Iowa’s winters, we can still enjoy gardening by listening to someone from the Master Gardener’s Speaker’s Bureau. A colorful and educational presentation on any number of gardening topics is available for your group or organization. Contact the Linn County Extension Office at 319-377-9839 for a brochure reflecting the range of speakers’ experience.