Denise and Lindsay's Iris

Denise and Lindsay's Iris
Photo by J Hulse

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

THAT DINGO ATE MY BABY (or Combatting Critters)

Click on above title for song

Integrated Pest Management: Mammals

“That dingo ate my baby!”  You remember Meryl Streep in that movie.  That’s exactly what I was like the first time my garden had been mutilated by some sort of destructive presence. My baby had been violated and after all of my hard work!  Let’s channel our anger.  Think:  Principles of IPM-- that’s Integrated Pest Management, a term you’ll hear a lot. 

o   Mammal or Insect?
o   Large or Small?
o   Digger, or trampler?
o   Grazer or Nibbler?
o   Etc.

o   Fences and Barriers
o   Sprays of Water
o   Sonic deterrents
o   Predator simulation
o   Predator Insects and Nematodes (for Insects)

o   In other words, havahart traps

o   Built-in Barriers
o   Companion plants


Signs of Mammals:
Large-scale disturbance of planting area (both plants and soil)
Partially eaten fruit
Mounds of soil in the planting bed.
Trails in the grass to the vegetables
Freshly dug holes

Signs of Insects:  This will be for Part two:  Insects
Leaves stripped down to the stem
Holes in the center of leaves
Very small black, white or green beads on either side of a leaf (insect eggs)
Leaves curled and apparently glued together
White or brown moths fluttering around
Almost invisible, blanketing webs (difficult to see, but usually where the leaf meets the stem.  This is spider mites, most likely.


Most land mammals like the shortest distance between two points.  They also like to develop treads (worn paths).  Disrupt their patterns.  Put up barriers appropriate to species:  Deer need tall fences.  And, in lieu of tall fences, how about Liquid Fence®, Not Tonight Deer.  The caveat is that you won’t want to apply this to your edibles, only to the area around them.   

Wire netting encasing your raised bed is a must for Gophers, bird netting for birds, raccoons, and squirrels.   Planet Natural’s Tanglefoot Pest Barrier or Dr. Fosters & Smith Sticky Paws  for other pests such as rodents (Rodentia), moles (Soricomorpha) , cats and dogs, bears and skunks (Carnivora), rabbits (Leporidae), and raccoons (Procyonidae).

If you see a mound of dirt, knock it down.   Or if you see a hole, fill it up.  With pebbles (and tamp them down so it’s pretty solid.  You’ll dig them up the next time you turn the soil.)

Most land mammals  avoid getting wet.  Get a water sprayer with a motion detector.  And move it to the opposite corner the following week.  Check out Contech, Havahart, and Walter Drake brands. 

Most land mammals are skittish.  Look into a Sonic, Solar, buzzing stake (made by Sweeney) Or, in addition to water, set up a motion detector light.  These things send a “Critters Unwelcome” message in a big way.

Land Mammals avoid predators.  So take a look at predator urine to soak in rags and strategically place in the garden.  Yes, cougar urine.  The site also gives some excellent information on live traps.  Which leads us to:


Live trap your pest if they just can’t take a hint.  Your lives will all be better when they’re gone.  Here’s the website for Havahart traps.  It is replete with valuable information. 
Typically these are not harmful to the animals, but can require some adept maneuvering once you've trapped an animal.  It is advisable to educate yourself about how to release the animal before pursuing this measure.  It would also be wise to determine where you will free the animal once caught. 
1)     Check the trap frequently.  Animals may perish a short time after capture.
2)     Keep your fingers out of the cage.  The animal IS wild.
3)     Be certain the cage is secure when you set it, NOT when there’s an animal inside.
4)     Don’t exact revenge.  The animal is only doing what comes naturally.
5)     Don’t handle the animal. 
6)     If the animal appears injured or disease, call Animal Control for your area.  Do NOT release the animal.
7)     During transport a stressed or agitated animal in a trap can be calmed and quieted by covering the trap with an old blanket or tarp, just make sure that it allows for good air circulation and will not cause overheating.
8)     Before moving and releasing your trapped animal it may be a good idea to check out the local state game regulations in your locality.
They might also be able to help you with specific locations which would be suitable for the animal. 
9)      Avoid releasing your pest in residential areas, near active roadways, around other gardens or farmlands, or in environments that would not provide suitable cover, vegetation, and the type of terrain that a particular animal would need in order to survive.
10)  It’s sometimes better to leave these things to professionals, if you’re at all uncomfortable trapping.


1)     Assess what worked and what didn’t this year. 
2)      Buy the materials which were successful and have them on hand, in advance. 
3)      Read current articles on the matter, when it’s pouring rain outside.  (Check in with us).
4)      Consider fencing your garden for the new year.
5)      Make certain all of last year’s equipment is in working order.
6)      Plan your crops to include companion plants.  (We’ll deal with that matter shortly.)
7)      Amend your soil properly (Beneficial nematodes might be in order, if you’ve had any sort of beetle problem this year.  Well-rotted manure and finished compost would add significant micro-organisms and minerals, as well as lighten the soil for the coming season. 
8)      Start keeping records.  (This is a great way to chart your growth, to bemoan your failures, and to tout your successes.  It’s a good spot to record when and where you bought your plant materials.  You will have a record of the “secret” recipe you used to cause your beans to climb to the clouds!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

EWWY, GOOEY CHEWERS (or bugsy the creep)

Well, here we are again, preparing ourselves for nature's wrath upon us and our delectables.  

I'm talking about invertebrates. (No backbone).  To narrow it down a little, we'll focus on the little beasts that chew.  They chew roots, and stems and leaves, and flowers and fruit, and bark, and, and, and, and, well, they chew!   They'll eat just about anything but plastic. Some may even eat plastic.  Some are desired, like ladybug beetles, and preying mantids, and beneficial nematodes, and certain types of parasitic wasps, and earthworms, and lacewing bugs.  Some are even necessary (for figs to ripen, for example--fig wasps.)   Others...not so much.  I'm going to talk about Worms, and moths, and butterflies and beetles, and flies, and ants, and any invertebrate that you're likely to encounter on your path to organic home gardening.

Here's a short list:

I could add picture after picture after picture of our nemeses. But let's cut to the chase.  This is about chewing pests.  Cut worms, green tomato horn worms, detrimental nematodes, cabbage looper moth larvae (cabbage worms), snails, slugs, and all of the above lovely creatures. 

Here’s a list of IPM (Integrated Pest Management) essentials.  (I love lists.  It’s the Virgo in me.)

1.      DE Diatomaceous Earth. This stuff is powdered oyster shells.  Insects that crawl on top of the ground despise it.  It's extremely uncomfortable to travel over.  It's usually white.  So you'll definitely see it around your plants
2.      BT Bacillis Thuringiensis.  Powdered or liquid form.  This stuff may be sprinkled or sprayed on plants and the surrounding ground.  Once ingested, this bacteria consumes soft tissue inside the larvae, eradicating it.  Or, at least, most of it.
3.      Insecticidal soap.  This is NOT detergent.  It is usually derived from potassium fatty acids and works only by direct contact.  Great for Aphids and Whiteflies and mites and thrips.  Not harmful to humans or vertebrates. 
4.      Beneficial Nematodes (These are the only remedy I've found that works on weevils.  And it takes some time to see the benefits.) Apply in the spring.  Follow directions explicitly.  Takes 2-3 months.  Lasts a couple of years, until the prey is gone.  Occasional re-application later in the season, if no results have been noticed. 
5.      Collars for newly planted tomatoes and any curcurbitae (squash and gourds, and melons, and cucumbers).   At least 3 inches underground, with one inch above ground, these can be as simple as a tin can with the top and bottom removed.  Plant your seedlings inside it, in the ground.  You can use a plastic milk carton with the bottom and top cut off,  you can use a large paper cup, with the bottom removed.  Are you getting the picture?  These collars really cut down on the problems with borers and cut worms.  Cut worms go for the stem right at ground level, and very neatly sever the plant from the roots.  Borers get up inside the stems and suck the life right out of the plants.  (not a pretty picture). Collars are a great anticipatory defense.
6.      Sluggo for snails and slugs
7.      If you see earwigs, simply place a small, shallow bowl half full of oil (vegetable, or canola, or olive) before dusk.  Check the next morning, tossing the oil and captured earwigs and reset your trap. You'll see the numbers diminish rapidly over the course of 3 or 4 days.  If you have a cat, you may see a feline with very shiny fur, and an empty bowl.  But, if you set it under a plant in an inconspicuous area, cats generally avoid it.
8.      Then there's the theory that, if you plant something they like MORE, right next to your favored crop, then they'll chow down where you want them to. 

Now, here's a little recipe for Leaf Miners of all types that I picked up on the internet tubes:

Things You'll Need
·        12-inch by 12-inch plastic containers
·        Soapy water
·        3 large garlic cloves
·        1 tbsp. mineral oil
·        Blender
·        1 tbsp. pure liquid soap such as Castille
·        Water
·        Coffee filter
·        Clean glass jar
·        Plastic spray bottle
1 Check your seedlings every day for the presence of leaf miner eggs. Examine the undersides of each leaf carefully for what may look like tiny raised spots. Eggs will be present just under the leaf surface. Pick off any infested leaves and destroy them. Don't add them to your compost heap.

2  Set several 12-inch by 12-inch plastic containers at random spots next to seedlings in your garden as soon as you plant. Check the containers for the presence of leaf miner larvae every day and dump any that you find into a bucket of soapy water. When you catch about 10 larvae per tray for 3 or 4 consecutive days, it's time to treat for them.

3  Puree three large garlic cloves and 1 tablespoon of mineral oil in the blender. Allow the mixture to set for at least 24 hours.  Add 1 tbsp. of pure liquid soap such as Castille and puree. Slowly pour in 1 pint of water to avoid whipping up a lather. Stir the mixture thoroughly.  Strain the repellent concentrate through a coffee filter into a clean glass jar. Cap the jar tightly, label it and store it in the refrigerator.

4  Mix 2 tbsps. of the concentrate with 1 pint of water in a plastic spray bottle.

5  Apply the homemade repellent to any affected plants.  Coat all surfaces completely. Repeat once weekly and re-apply following each rainfall.

Pasted from <ehow article>

As you can see, once you're scratched the surface of IPM, the vast number of variables, the numerous approaches to control, and the sheer volume of information can be daunting.  Don't despair. You're good enough, and your smart enough, and, doggone it, your garden loves you!  The first couple of seasons are always the hardest!

Be sure to touch base with me here, whenever you have a question, or a comment, or a picture, or a tip.  I LOVE to exchange information with you.

And, until next time, get out there and enjoy your garden!!!