Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.

Posts about Critters and pests

What critter made these tunnels?

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: August 19, 2014 - 8:29 AM

 

A friend of mine has some critter on the loose in her yard that's making tunnels, and is resistant to being persuaded to leave the premises. While I have critter problems, all of mine are above-ground dwellers, so I don't have experience from which to offer her advice and I'm hoping some Green Girls followers out there can help her. So it is a mole, vole, or other? And what methods have you used to get these varmints to move on?
 
She offers some clues:
 
1. The holes are under a crab apple tree, about 3 feet apart and a good 8 inches deep.
2. The tunnel is horizontal. You could run the tape measure through the hole and it would pop out the other side
3. She has dug up the tunnels, washed them out with water, smoked them, placed planters over the tunnel holes for several years in a row. She keeps them there long enough (a month or more?) to encourage it to move on. And it seems to move, until the holes re-appear late spring. Ugh!
 
What pesky animal makes these holes and how does she make them realize they've worn out their welcome?

The good, the bad and the ugly

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: August 18, 2014 - 4:49 PM

Gardens spring forth with high hopes, but by mid-August, the garden is what it is. It's time to savor the successes -- and write off what didn't pan out this year. Here's what's going on in my garden, the good, the bad and the ugly:

THE GOOD: We are now harvesting awesomely delicious tomatoes, plus as much basil and oregano as we can pick. Squash and peppers will soon be ripe and ready for the table. And my nasturtiums are still ablaze with tasty blooms for tossing in salads. I love the peppery kick of the flowers and the leaves. 

On the ornamental front, one of my succulents surprised me by shooting off a long arm, which is now covered with hot-pink buds. I've never gotten a succulent to flower before. Cool!

THE BAD: What happened to the morning glories? I plant them every year, usually from seed, and I typically get like three flowers, and not until early October. This year, I bought plants at the garden center, figuring that would speed up the flowering. But I still haven't seen a single bloom -- just a few feeble bud-like nubs that dried up and fell off. What the heck?

THE UGLY: An intruder has discovered my awesomely delicious tomatoes. Every morning when I check the vines, there are two or three more tomatoes with giant gaping bites taken out of them. I suspect the bold chipmunk I often see darting around my deck. But we also have an army of squirrels snacking on maple seeds in the tree right above my tomato pots, so it could be one of them. I'm glad they're enjoying them -- we have enough to share.

What's good, bad or just-plain ugly in your garden, now that summer is winding down?

Snatching victory from the jaws of squirrels

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: July 22, 2014 - 8:59 PM

I've gotten very tired of coming home to see what had been tomatoes on the cusp of ripeness hanging from the vines in shards. For the most part the squirrels don't even bother to make off with their prize, just claw at it to the point that it's no longer a candidate for the table.

I'd made a few efforts this weekend to try to ward them off, knowing that the riper the tomatoes got, the more vulnerable to marauders they become. But a ring of netting didn't deter the varmints, so I'm going to have to take sterner measures.

In the meantime, until I get to a store for more defense supplies, I've started taking the precaution of picking them far sooner than I would ordinarily prefer, just so we get some tomatoes this year, even if they're counter-ripened.

Do squirrels attack your tomatoes? And what measures have you had success and failure with when it comes to protecting your bounty?

It's a party -- with pollinators!

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: July 21, 2014 - 10:25 AM

Walking along Franklin Avenue Friday after work, I was passing a tiny front-yard garden when something caught my eye. Bees, two big fat ones, were busily foraging among the coneflowers.

I paused to watch them in action, marveling at their ability to find the few flowers in an urban forest of concrete. 

Bees, their decline, and the important work they do to pollinate our food supply, are getting a lot of attention these days. If you're interested in learning more about how to protect bees, provide habitat or maybe even start keeping bees, head to Lyndale Park Gardens on Thursday evening. From 5 to 8 p.m., there will be a free " Pollinator Party" on the lawn near the Lake Harriet Peace Garden.

The event brings together scientists, educators and beekeepers, with opportunities to learn about everything from urban beekeeping to making your back yard more bee-friendly. But it's also a fun event to stop by and just hang out, with live music, activities for kids, food and beverages to purchase, and at dusk, a showing of the Disney movie "Wings of Life." 

For more information, visit: 

http://www.minneapolisparks.org/documents/activities/environmental/PollinatorParty2014Flyer.pdf

Nipped in the bud

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: July 7, 2014 - 10:16 AM

At last! After a string of warm, sunny days, gardens are finally in full flower. I love wandering outside before and after work every day to see which buds have opened. 

My clematis is in glorious red-purple bloom, with more flowers to come. The ligularia and delphinium are about to burst forth, adding golden yellow and brilliant blue to the garden palette.

There are a few red roses in bloom, as well as Endless Summer hydrangeas. Usually mine bloom bright pink, but after treatment last year with the "Color Me Blue" color kit,

they're showing hints of lavender and periwinkle amidst the pink.

But there are definitely some disappointments in the bloom department.

My black-eyed Susans have been putting up big, juicy buds for weeks, but so far, I've seen only one flower. Every morning when I go outside to check on my garden, I find nipped-off stems where the best buds were the night before. Clearly deer are visiting my garden overnight and helping themselves to the juiciest-looking flower buds.

My balloon flowers are suffering the same fate. I've had easily 50-plus buds, but not one bloom so far, thanks to the deer, who leave gnawed-off stems to taunt me. 

It's time to buy some Irish Spring soap, haul out the potato peeler and see if a few shavings in the garden will deter the deer from munching. I had modest success with that remedy last year, although nothing I've tried keeps the deer away completely.

Are you seeing more deer damage than usual this year in your garden? And what, if anything, are you doing about it?

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