Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pests, Critters and Planning Ahead

Critters and pests always seem to be lurking on the edge of our garden happiness. This week several came to my attention.

Rabbits are a constant threat to a gardener's happiness, and with my crocus blooming, I was aware that they are potential bunny food. Dusting the buds, leaves, and the open flowers with Cayenne pepper is one way to stop hungry rabbits. However this week another old nemesis reappeared and did a number on the crocus flowers as the pictures indicate. The Purple House Finch is a flower and bud eater and all the cayenne pepper you want to douse the crocus with will not prevent the bird from eating the stamens and lower ends of the flowers as the photos indicate. After several clumps succumbed to this invasive species, I put some flash tape on a bamboo stake to frighten them away. Keeping them out of the apple buds and blossom will be another battle but I will try the flash tape there only when the buds are real close to breaking.

Rabbit damage is everywhere on shrubs and bushes. One must be ever vigilant in the early winter to the potential damage that rabbits can do. The photo examples show how heavily they have eaten the bark and on one tree, they even came back after all the snow was melted and ate bark again. The very best way to prevent this sort of damage is to cage all your plants with chicken wire and continue to keep the wire higher than the snow so bunnies can't get into the caged areas and feed. The other way is to remove as many rabbits from your garden environment as possible. The way you do that is your choice, however do not make your rabbits a burden to another homeowner or gardener.

The apple trees are, or should be, pruned. With warmer days and nights, the time is correct for the application of dormant oil sprays. At one time this was an annual event for my fruit trees but research has shown that this spray application may do more harm than good, as the spray kills both pests and beneficial insects. Unless you have had mite infestations on your fruit trees or can identify potential colonies of mites on your trees, most Extension offices are not recommending this spray. I have not sprayed dormant oil for the last three years and have had little of no mite damage. Using the spray on ornamental trees and shrubs that have scale infestations is still recommended but just not on fruit trees. An added note - the pruning from the apple will make good pea stakes for that crop; or you can find some other pruning materials like the ones pictured that you can use for the pea vines to climb. I like to use these kind of sticks because when the harvest is done I can gather vines and sticks and remove the whole planting easily.

The picture posts included this week show the lettuce, onions, and micro-green trays sprouted. Some thinning of the lettuce will be needed but the rest will grow in their containers getting ready for transplanting in the garden.

Early this week, I hope to post the supply list and measurements for a 4 foot by 4 foot cold frame and a brief set of directions for building those season extenders. One of the frames in my garden will be moved closer to the house so I can use the space for hardening off my transplants from the greenhouse which will be happening soon.

Happy Gardening

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