Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

November, 2003
Regional Report

Treat for Moles

If you have trouble with moles digging tunnels in your garden, they are probably searching for grubs that live just below the surface. Control the grub population and the moles will look elsewhere for a meal. 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.

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

Clean and Sharpen Pruning Tools

Make sure you are ready for the winter pruning season by sharpening your clippers, loppers, and pruning saws. Use small flat files to sharpen clipper blades, and small round files to sharpen individual saw teeth. Make sure you keep the file at a constant angle to the blade and sharpen in one direction only, not back and forth. Treat handles to a light coating of linseed oil, and moving parts to a shot of lubricating oil.

Monitoring Houseplants

As the outside temperatures drop, the heater goes on inside the house. Dry, warm air is the ideal condition for spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects to thrive. Check indoor plants for insect infestation and treat with a soap/oil spray if they are present. Mist plants frequently to keep humidity high, or use a humidity tray made by placing gravel in the saucer under each plant. Water collects in the gravel and evaporates back up through the foliage, providing much needed humidity while preventing the roots from sitting in water.

Try This Deer Repellent

Deer are moving down from the hills in search of water and food. If you live in a rural area, you may experience the "amazing disappearing garden trick" unless you come up with a plan to deter hungry deer from foraging in your yard. My friend Thais Powers swears by this recipe for homemade deer repellent:

Mix 1 beaten egg, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon oil, 1 teaspoon liquid soap, 1 quart of water, and some hot chili peppers in a blender, strain through cheesecloth, and store in the refrigerator. Apply by pouring the mixture into a sprayer and misting susceptible areas frequently, especially after a rain or irrigating.

Protect New Seedlings from Hungry Birds

Birds are attracted to young seedlings because as the seed begins to germinate, the starch in the seed converts to sugar, which is irresistible to hungry birds. Once the seed has formed two sets of true leaves, the sugar once again converts to starch and the birds are no longer interested.

Here are some ideas for keeping birds away from your new plants:
Use metallic flash tape strung between chopsticks in the beds, twisting the tape slightly so that it shows both the red and the metallic side as it flutters in the breeze. Hang old CDs near garden beds so they flash in the sunlight. Cover new seedlings with net or floating row covers until two sets of leaves appear. Place a feeder elsewhere in your garden.

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