Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

November, 2004
Regional Report

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.

Care for Indoor Plants

As the outside temperatures drop, the heater goes on inside the house. Dry, warm air is ideal for spider mites, mealybugs and scale insects. Check indoor plants frequently for insect infestation, and treat with a soap/oil spray as soon as you see them. 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 to provide much needed humidity.

Move On Moles!

If you have trouble with moles digging tunnels in your garden, they are probably searching for grubs and worms 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: 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.

Spray With This Fail-Safe 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. A friend of mine swears by this recipe for homemade deer repellent: 1 beaten egg, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon liquid soap, hot chili peppers, 1 quart water. Mix in blender, strain through cheesecloth, and store in the refrigerator. Apply by pouring the mixture into a sprayer and frequently misting susceptible foliage, especially after a rain or irrigation.

Protect New Seedlings

If birds are eating your seedlings as they emerge from the soil, deter them with frightening devices. 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 once again converts to starch and the birds are no longer interested. Here are some ideas for keeping birds away from your new plants:
1. Hang old CDs near garden beds to frighten hungry birds away from new seedlings. Use metallic flash tape strung between chopsticks in seed beds. Twist the tape slightly so that it shows both the red and the metallic sides as it flutters in the breeze.
2. Cover new seedlings with netting or floating row covers to protect them from hungry birds until two sets of leaves appear.
3. Place a feeder elsewhere in your garden. Birds are good! They eat bugs ...

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