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Common Problems with Landscapes
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Some animals can be a nusiance in the garden while others we invite. Many of the following tips to limit wildlife in your garden are actually contrary to other recommendations for creating wildlife habitat. YardScapers must weigh the pros and cons before acting to reduce or prevent wildlife intrusion.
- Don't make a mountain out of a mole hill. Tamp down mole tunnels and rake out any soil they bring up. If the tunnels re-appear, you may want to invest in harpoon traps. Upside: moles aerate the soil and eat damaging insects. One great mole website is TheMoleMan.com.
- Make your yard less attractive to woodchucks by removing brush piles, old stumps and wood piles. Lure woodchucks away from your garden by planting favored foods such as clover and alfalfa in another area.
- Smart ones: raccoons, skunks, squirrels and chipmunks. Trapping is the surest way to remove these problem critters. But, don't expect to control a whole caboodle of these critters with trapping. There's always more where they came from. Lawn grubs can be a calling card for skunks especially. Monitoring the lawn and managing grubs as they hatch from their eggs in July and August can help reduce problems with skunks, crows and seagulls.
- Deer tend to stay away from succulent, poisonous, pungent flavored and hairy or furry leaved plants. They can be scared away by motion sensor devices attached to lights or loud music. Of all the methods, though, fencing is the most reliable.
- Partially eaten potatoes or carrots are a sign of mice and voles. They also like newly sown seeds and most flower bulbs (except daffodils). The first line of defense is to create a mouse-unfriendly environment by removing food, water, and shelter. Delay using fluffy mulches such as straw until late in the season. Mice love to winter over in this material and it gives them easy access to your plants under the snow. Place precious bulbs such as lilies in metal cages or place sharp, crushed gravel around the bulb when planting to deter these tunneling pests.
- Select disease-resistant plant varieties with cold hardiness and drought tolerance whenever possible.
- Buy only healthy looking plants. Avoid plants with galls, torn bark, trunk wounds, and cankers.
- Pick the right plant for the right place. The right plant will fend for itself. Things to consider: sunlight; competition from nearby plants; soil moisture, drainage, pH and texture.
- Plant properly. Take a soil test. Make the recommended adjustments.
- Mulch with caution. Soggy soils deprive roots of oxygen and cause root-rotting diseases.
- Rake and remove fallen leaves from around diseased plants.
- Improve air flow by pruning, thinning and not over planting.
- Do not water late in the day or at night if leaf diseases are potential problems. Water the roots only whenever possible.
- Fertilize, but be careful not to over do it. Follow the plant recommendations. Spoon feed nitrogen fertilizer. Too much soluble nitrogen causes plants to grow too fast and renders them susceptible to diseases.
- Do not make flush pruning cuts or leave large stubs. Pruning wounds are doorways for many plant disease-causing organisms. Learn to prune properly.
- Protect tree trunks from "lawn mower" or "weed eater" blight by mulching properly (no mulch volcanoes (PDF)!)
- Select plants that bugs don't like. Try native plants, they're survivors.
- Plant varieties that are suited to your region and soil condition.
- Keep your soil rich and fertile, with a proper pH. Spoon feed plants with nitrogen. Too much soluble nitrogen fertilizer will make plants grow too fast and render them very susceptible to sucking insects like aphids, mealybugs and whiteflies.
- Rotate vegetable and annual flowering plants to disrupt the life cycle of pests.
- Plant and harvest vegetables early. This will keep the plants strong and avoid peak insect activity.
- Remove pest-infected plants in the fall.
- Most vegetable plants need lots of sun, air circulation and water to keep the plants healthy.
- Put out the doormat for natural enemies (such as lady beetles, ground beetles, bats and birds)
- Hand-picking a few large insects takes little time, no money and doesn't harm the environment.
- Use pesticides that are very selective and can be applied with pinpoint spot treatments to help conserve beneficial organisms and pollinators.
- Be very careful with systemic insecticides they can show up in the pollen and nectar of flowers and harm pollinators. Time applications so that peak concentrations do not coincide with plant flowering.