The Q&A Archives: garden pests

Question: Fighting my gopher problems is a full time job. Now I have squirls. How do I eliminate my new probflem before it gets out of hand? HELP

Answer: Squirrels are really difficult to deter. You might try a hot pepper wax spray or one of the spray on animal repellents sold at the garden center, or possibly a garlic-based spray. Or, you could enclose each plant in wire mesh such as chicken wire or metal window screen and see if they learn they can't get to it and then eventually forget it is there -- and you can remove the wrapping. Thorny branches stuck into the soil of the container might also help if they have to stand there to snatch the flower buds.

Moles and gophers can be exasperating when they take up residence in a yard. The critters tunnel through the soil feeding on grubs, worms and beetles. Sometimes they chew through plant roots and bulbs, causing damage to the plants. The best way to control these pests is by trapping. Invest in one or two scissors-type traps and set them in the active runs. The best approach is to use a stiff metal probe (like a straightened wire coathanger) to find the main runs. Start at a mound of soil and explore the ground with the probe, finding the longest tunnel. You'll be able to tell by whether or not the probe penetrates into the soil easily. Short tunnels are used infrequently, so your best chance of trapping will be by placing a trap in a frequently used main run. Once you've found a likely tunnel, set the trap and cover it with a section of turf or a board to exclude daylight. Keep setting the trap until you stop catching moles and gophers. It may take an entire season, but persistence pays off and eventually you'll reduce the population of the creatures. Healthy soil naturally has a large population of insects. As long as the insects inhabit the soil, moles and gophers will be attracted. Wish there were an easier way to eliminate moles and gophers from the landscape.

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