Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
August, 2006
Regional Report

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Aluminium flashing is used to keep climbing pests out of trees.

Critter Control

I know some gardeners who actually invite squirrels into their garden by setting out peanuts. To me, that's the same as inviting the Devil in for tea. Although squirrels are adorable with their fluffy tails, bright eyes, and wiggly noses, they can do serious damage to container plants and bulbs, which seem to be their favorite food in spring.

To keep these "lovable" rodents out of my pots, I sprinkle the hottest chili peppers I can find over the surface of the soil. I am happy to give the little demons a hot foot if they try to eat my plants. The only byproduct of using this method is that chili seedlings will show up later in the season. Chili peppers also seem to work in places that cats are attracted to.

When I was working as a gardener on the grounds at Sunset Magazine in Menlo Park, I had squirrels using the redwood trees as their private source of bedding. The little bandits had actually stripped the bark on one side of a tree to use as nesting material in their lofty abodes. Redwoods have that lovely fibrous bark that shreds so nicely. I talked with the maintenance department, and in no time we had installed aluminum flashing around the circumference of the trunk. It deterred the squirrels from their nasty "shred and go" habit.

Aluminum flashing can also be used to keep rats from scurrying up the trunks of palms. Norwegian roof rats are not afraid to scale difficult heights in search of nesting sites.

We live in conjunction with nature, however when the raccoons arrive later in the summer looking for grubs under the surface of your lawn, will you stand by and let them run havoc over your property? I think not. Especially when it's so easy to prevent their nocturnal foraging by applying beneficial nematodes to your turf to eliminate the grubs. And, if you don't want to go to all that bother, you can do the same thing with a homemade remedy.

Raccoons, skunks, and moles are probably looking for grubs and worms that live just below the surface. The fact that they tear up sod in search of a yummy meal means that you have a choice. If you control the grub population, the omnivores will look elsewhere for a free dinner.

Grub Be Gone
Here is a recipe that takes care of grubs. Be advised, it will also kill earthworms, so apply this during midday when the earthworms are deep in the soil.

1 tablespoon castor oil
2 tablespoons dishwashing liquid
1/2 cup water
Mix soap and oil in a blender until thick. Add water and mix again. Blend mixture with 2 gallons of water in a watering can. Sprinkle over mole-infested areas.

Deer Deterrent
Many Bay area gardeners fight the Bambi Battle every summer. I am going to share with you a tried-and-true recipe to control deer. My friend Thais Powers developed this recipe to keep deer away from her garden. You will need:

One egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon oil
hot chili peppers
1 quart water
Mix in blender, strain through cheesecloth, store in refrigerator. Apply frequently with a small spray bottle, especially after a rain or irrigating.

I'm not saying that all animals should be banned from the garden. Birds, in addition to dining on your fruit trees, eat an abundance of insects every day. God's creatures bring life into your little oasis. Live with what you can, and be gentle with your methods of control.

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