Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

November, 2000
Regional Report

Sharpen Pruning Tools


Make sure you're ready for the winter pruning season by sharpening your clippers, loppers, and pruning saws. Use small flat files to sharpen clipper blades, small round files to sharpen individual saw teeth. Keep the file at a constant angle to the blade and sharpen in one direction only, not back and forth. Clean wooden handles of dirt and treat them with a light coating of linseed oil.

Control Insects on Houseplants


As the outside temperatures drop, the heat goes on inside the house. Dry, warm air is the ideal condition for spider mite, mealybug, and scale insects to thrive. Check indoor plants frequently for insect infestation and, if you find any, treat them with an insecticidal soap or horticultural oil spray. Mist plants frequently to keep humidity high or make a humidity tray simply by placing gravel in the saucer under each plant. Water will collect in the gravel and evaporate back up through the foliage providing much needed humidity without saturating the roots. High humidity will deter some pests such as spider mites.

Mole Repellent

If you have trouble with moles digging tunnels in your garden, they\'re probably searching for grubs and earthworms below the surface. Here is a recipe that repels moles and can kill grubs. Mix 1 tablespoon castor oil, 2 tablespoons dishwashing liquid, and 1/2 cup water in a blender until thick. Blend mixture with 2 gallons of water in a watering can. Sprinkle over mole-infested area during midday when earthworms are deep in the soil to avoid harming them.

Deer Repellent

Deer are moving down from the hills in search of water and food. Unless you come up with a plan to deter hungry deer from foraging in your yard, your plants will suffer. My friend Thais Powers swears by this deer-repellent recipe: Mix 1 beaten egg, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon liquid soap,
1 hot chili pepper, 1 quart water in a blender. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth and store in the refrigerator. Spray the mixture on plants frequently, especially after a rain or irrigating.

Protect New Seedlings


If birds are eating your seedlings as they emerge from the soil, frightening devices are the best method to deter them. Birds are attracted to the 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 converts back to starch and the birds are no longer interested. Here are some bird repellent tricks: Hang old CDs and metallic flash tape near garden beds. The breeze makes them move, reflecting light and scaring the birds. Cover new seedlings with shade netting or floating row covers to protect them from hungry birds until two sets of leaves appear.

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