Monday, April 23, 2012

To catch an armadillo...or not

Armadillos are blind and dumb. Yet somehow the one digging holes in our yard is smart enough to outsmart the two of us plus three hired armadillo catchers. Thus far.

We had our annual termite inspection recently. During the inspection we discovered a tunnel next to the foundation, behind some rather shabby looking bushes (shame on me). Turns out we had an armadillo. I'd known for a while that we had one as I noted all the little holes sprouting up in our yard. We're on five wooded acres so I expect some wildlife to do damage at times.

I "assumed" the thing had space out in the woods somewhere...it never crossed my mind to think we were sharing space.

I went out on the Internet and did a bit of research. The general consensus was it was fairly easy to catch the supposedly dumber-than-average pest with a trap. The cost of the traps ran from around $60 - $90 for the armadillo size.

When I read through the comments from people who tried the traps, and failed more often than not it seemed, I decided to explore letting a professional handle the trapping of our yard destroyer. We found a great local company that only charged when the caught the critter. Some companies charge a fee to set up the traps.

A week later and a visit a day from the company and we seem to have scared the armadillo out of two homes without catching him.

It's a waste of time to bait the trap because armadillos are only interested in things like grubs that they dig out of the ground. Baiting a trap with cat food or other interesting things would probably have netted us a raccoon or maybe a squirrel but it wouldn't tempt an armadillo.

The pest folks put the trap next to the hole the armadillo had dug next to our wall. They rigged it so he had could only go into the trap if he left. We learned that first night that he wasn't in the hole, he must have been creating a second home...and we had blocked his ability to get into the "new" home. We saw his little prints going up the mud to the back of the trap. So, they turned it around. He didn't come back.

We found another place where it looked like he's started making a new home but it was hit or miss on where to put the trap...and we missed.

At this point we've decided to give up. We dropped rocks into both holes and covered them up. Our next option is to put down a grub killer on a regular basis which would make the neighbors yard more enticing... no, that's not a nice thing for our neighbor, but chances are the dumb thing is also destroying their yard already.  They travel wide and far.

The holes are still appearing in the yard so I know he's out there somewhere. I've read enough to know that none of the home remedies work on ridding the area of the pests. I'm going to do some more noodling to see what else we might try. I'm open to suggestions!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Blackberries and grapes

Last year, late into the year, my Mom gave me a cherry tree "baby", some sprigs of her grapes and a couple of blackberries to plant. We weren't sure if they'd take hold before the winter or survive the hottest time of the year...and they didn't. I lost all but one blackberry.

I was going to try some of hers again as she has plenty, but haven't been able to get up to her area and have forgotten to mention it every time my parents came in our direction. So, I bought two grape vines and a blackberry at our local Lowes store.

I picked up some composted manure and some fruit dirt. That sounds funny --- fruit dirt. I read the instructions and learned that I shouldn't fertilize when first planting so I worked the stuff into the soil around where I intended to plant and just used top soil mixed with our Georgia clay and the dirt on the root ball when putting the plants into the ground.

Lucky for me it has rained a few times since I planted them a little over a week ago. The leaves fell off the blackberry when I planted it... It was a tiny stick to begin and only had two little leaves. It was the only one they had that had any leaves at all! But it was less than $4 (on sale) and they have a guarantee on them so it was worth a shot.

I'm going to get Mom to save a few cherry tree shooters for me and will try that again.

My goal is to have a yard full of fruit. I have a pomegranate, two blueberries, figs, and some other random types of fruit trees or bushes. Unfortunately, the birds and deer enjoy the fruit more than we do! Living on five wooded acres makes my garden a salad bar buffet of treats for the wild life! In fact, I moved my tomatoes and beans into containers on the back porch this year just to make sure I'd get some.

Hopefully in a few years I'll have grapes and blackberries to fight the wild life over.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Organic Gardening Workshop Set at UGA Campus in Griffing

Apr. 27, 2012 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM

An organic gardening workshop is slated for April 27 on the University of Georgia campus in Griffin, Ga. The class will meet from 9 a.m. until 4:15 p.m. at the UGA Griffin Campus Research & Education Garden. The class will break for lunch from noon until 1:15 p.m.

Workshop instructor Bob Westerfield, a UGA Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist, will focus on the building blocks of organic gardening techniques and what consumers need to know about organic and sustainable farming. Participants will learn about soil ecosystems, managing soil, air, water and minerals, methods of weed, insect and disease control within organic standards and compost. Consumer knowledge, attitudes and concepts of organic gardening will also be covered.

The course is sponsored by UGA Cooperative Extension and the UGA horticulture department. The cost of the workshop is $39 which includes refreshments and workshop supplies.

Pre-register by printing the form found online at http://www.caes.uga.edu/?tiny=1FYKOF. The deadline for registration is April 24.

For more information, call Krissy Slagle at (770) 229-3368 or email her at kslagle@uga.edu.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Strange time of year for my garden

Every year I run into basically the same problem at this time of year. Everything starts to look scraggly.

This year the squirrel from hell decimated my grape tomato patch. I'm already making my plans of squirrel attack for next year. It involves mouse traps and bells thus far. Spraying the plants with bad tasting stuff didn't make a difference to the bushy rat. If he didn't like the taste of one he just left it on the ground to rot and moved on to the next.

I started a new raised bed for my cucumbers hoping I'd avoid last year's problems but nope, they followed. I have some beautiful cucumbers but I'm in a race against the dwindling vines. They turn yellow, then brown starting at the bottom of the vine. It's working its way upward. I've tried the fungus stuff, fertilizing (but not too much), watering in the morning so they don't get damp at night and have cut off the bad leaves as fast as it happens. Oh, I also tried some industrial strength bug killer (plant safe, made for plants) despite trying to stay organic.

I know I whine a lot on this blog but it is a bit frustrating to put so much effort into getting some decent veggies only to lose so many to a combination of drought with downpours, excessive heat and critters.

I do realize that if I spent more quality time with my garden I could probably avoid some of the problems. Having a garden requires a commitment that I seem to just fall short of reaching.

I'm considering taking a master gardening class, but I'm not sure if that will really result in great veggies. I think maybe next year I'll just pull everything up, work my soil, and give it a break. Although, I do love those grape tomatoes... and cucumbers... and beans... hmmm...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Squirrels with issues...

My squirrels have developed addictions this year.

I've always had the usual problem with the pesky rats with tails getting into my bird feeders, snitching my sunflower seeds and other bird favorites. I've adapted. I put a hot pepper mix on the seeds and it keeps them away for a while. I have fun in my pottery studio with them, too. I'll put the seeds in the window feeder, then sneak over and bang on the two-way glass when they climb in... After a couple of scares they usually stay away.

Now, however, I have a tomato addict.

And, I have a sugar water addict.

I added some extra fencing around my raised tomato bed initially, not knowing what was getting into it. Then I walked out one day and saw a squirrel sitting inside the bed munching away on my tomatoes. It sat there brazenly snacking until I was just a couple of feet away, almost within swatting range (not that I'd take a chance on tangling with a potentially rabid squirrel). It scampered off to a nearby tree where it sat at eye-level on a branch, one beady eye focused on me, while it finished its delicacy. Grrrrr...

I've been spraying stuff to keep deer and other animals away around the bed and even on the bottom tomatoes (as I've given them up to the cause). It's been working. However, we've been having rain every day lately and I notice that there are once again discarded tomatoes on the ground around my plants.

A few days ago I went out and found one of my hummingbird feeder on the ground, empty, ants crawling all over it. We'd had a bad storm so I "assumed" it had gotten knocked off in the high winds. I refilled it only to find it completely empty the next day. I refilled it and moved it. Humph, empty again. I moved it around the house to the other side on a taller pole, next to another one. Hump, empty today.

So, I'm going to move the shepherd's hook away from any nearby climbing or hanging spots and grease the hook. I don't know if that'll work but I want my hummingbirds and I don't want the squirrels.

I went out and did a little research. Some have suggested hanging them from a baffle and even share how to make a home-made baffle with pie pans. I may try that next.

Sugar is highly addictive. It's what they feed to drug addicts to wean them off the 'hard' stuff. Having a sugar addicted squirrel is going to be difficult. I can't put pepper water in the feeder as the hummingbirds won't touch it. However, once the hummingbirds leave, that's exactly what I'm going to do if this keeps up.

Ideas anyone?

I did find it funny when I read the comments on other discussion boards about the subject. Quite a few people said squirrels don't like sugar water. I found that humorous. I used to have those baby feeders hanging inside my window bird feeder. I'd sit there and watch the squirrels come up, tip the feeder and greedily finish off the sugar water in the little thing. I quit putting them out down there.

Love to have any suggestions from friends. I didn't have any luck doing an Internet search, just found a lot of people with the same problem!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Figured out how to get my grass to grow...

I have a couple of acres of grass surrounded by woods. I call it grass but in reality it only looks like grass right after it has been mowed. Give it a day and the weeds explode. I can see the bare spots once the wind blows the cut grass away. When it rains the spots increase in size.

I'm not even sure what kind of grass I have. I think it's a combination of every kind of seed made as over the years I've tried the various mixtures that "will grow anywhere".

It finally struck me this year how I could grow grass.

I will plant flowers all through the yard.

I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but I am convinced it will work.

I had the epiphany as I was cleaning out my flower beds. I pulled up handful after handful of beautiful, lush grass. It was then that I realized I had been going about this grass-growing things backwards. Even in the worst soil, if I plant a flower and leave it, within days it will be surrounded by grass. It's the planting of the flowers. Grass likes flowers. It thrives on flowers. Either that or it just likes to aggravate me. But giving grass a mind is even crazier than my flower theory.

So, I recently came into possession of a ton of flower seeds. I'm going to plant them all through my yard and watch the grass grow! Sure, I know that every time the yard is mowed I'll be cutting down flowers. On the plus side, in those crazy months were you almost need to cut grass daily to keep it reasonable, maybe I'll have pretty flowers instead of just those old dandelions. And grass. I'll have beautiful grass.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Past time...

Yes, it's past time to get my garden going. I am partially on my way. I've cleaned out the beds, have some Coco Peat in my wheelbarrow soaking and I have two grape tomato vines awaiting in pots.

I planted some asparagus bean seeds and one has started pushing up through the soil. I'm hoping for more. I decided to fill a number of pots with them this year as I really did like the few I managed to harvest last year. Some pest got hold of them before I ate too many. This year I'm going to be more vigilant and will get the creeps before they creep up on the plants.

I'm rotating my 'crops', too. Tomatoes will go where the beans were last year. No cantaloupes, squash or pumpkins though. They were too much trouble last year. I will be growing cucumbers though. I'm hoping that by cleaning out the beds and allowing for more sunlight around the trellises that I'll be successful.

I may try some lettuce. I have an extra raised bed this year so I'll need something new to grow in it.

Just thought I'd share that I'm slowly moving in the right direction. I'm behind in some ways given that I'm in Georgia.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Annual Plant Fair and Sale at Callaway Gardens®

FREE Admission; Including Plants Unique to the South; Great Books and Tools; Beautiful Garden Deco

Head to Callaway Gardens with a plant list and a vehicle large enough to take home all of the great finds from the Callaway Gardens Annual Plant Fair and Sale, March 24-27, 2011.

Choose from garden-d├ęcor, gardening books and tools as well as an incredible array of flowering plants and shrubs, including many unique, hard-to-find varieties and native plants that thrive in the Southeast, often in challenging weather conditions.

In addition to Callaway Gardens’ plants and specialty items, 15 other nurseries and specialty vendors from throughout the Southeast will have plants for sale, answer plant-related questions and offer their very unique garden-related wares. Those participating include: Chattahoochee Valley Day Lily Society; Eagle’s Roost Herb Farm; Fern Ridge Farms; Garden Delights; Garden Solutions; Hollonville Nursery; JAM‘n Designs; Laurel Springs Nursery; Massee Lane Camellia Gardens; Our Secret Garden; Petals from the Past; Rocky Branch Nursery; The Garden Enthusiast; and Waypoint Nursery.

The Plant Fair and Sale will be open to the public Thursday, March 24 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.; March 25 and 26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and March 27 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission to the Plant Fair and Sale at the Beach Dome at Robin Lake Beach is free when entering through the beach gate on U.S. Hwy. 27. Admission will be charged to those who wish to visit the rest of Callaway Gardens. Special event pricing for Celebrate Spring! $25/adult; $12.50/child; children five and under are admitted for free. Callaway Gardens Annual Passholders and active and retired military, with valid identification and up to five guests, receive free access to Celebrate Spring! Enjoy the explosion of color among the Spring blooming trees, azaleas, bulbs!

Callaway Gardens is in Pine Mountain, Ga., 60 minutes southwest of Atlanta and 30 minutes north of Columbus. For additional information, visit www.callawaygardens.com or call 1-800-CALLAWAY (225-5292).

PLUS

Garden with Confidence: Learn from Erica Glasener at the 13th Annual Callaway Gardening School

NEW Landscape Design Workshop; Learn About Plants Best Suited for Southern Gardens

Launch your Spring gardening endeavors with advice from experts at the 13th annual Callaway Gardening School March 25, 2011. Join us for a fantastic gardening experience with one of Georgia’s own gardening gurus, Erica Glasener.

Glasener, an Atlanta television host and author, will share information on how to choose plants best suited for gardens in Georgia. This knowledge will allow gardeners to create the best plant combinations for their personal gardens and landscape projects. Many of these plants will be available at the Annual Plant Fair & Sale simultaneously and throughout the weekend.

Living and gardening in Atlanta, Georgia, horticulturist and author, Glasener has hosted “A Gardener’s Diary” on Home and Garden Television (HGTV) for 14 years and has written a biweekly column on plants and garden design for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She is the co-author with Walter Reeves of The Georgia Gardener’s Guide (revised edition published in 2004) and Month-By-Month Gardening in Georgia (revised edition published in 2006). Her latest book is entitled Proven Plants: Southern Gardens. Glasener has also served as a contributing editor for Fine Gardening, a Taunton Press publication, and her articles have appeared in New York Times, The Farmer’s Almanac and Atlanta Magazine.

In her own garden, Glasener grows vegetables, fruits (including blueberries) heirloom roses, bulbs, perennials, shrubs and trees. She strives to have fresh flowers and foliage for bouquets to bring indoors or to take to friends throughout the year. Glasener lectures on gardening topics such as fragrant plants, perennials, the winter garden and garden design.

Glasener will be joined by horticultural experts on an in-depth question and answer panel including David Chambers, manager of Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden at Callaway Gardens; Helen Phillips, manager of Garden Solutions Garden Center of LaGrange, GA,; and Ernest Koone III of Lazy K Nursery and Garden Delights Garden Center. Bring your gardening questions and challenges to see if you can get your perplexing gardening issues solved as well as receive practical, down-to-earth advice and insight into your gardening activities.

During lunch, Glasener will be available to autograph her many books. These will be available for purchase at the event.

The schedule for the Callaway Gardening School is:

9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.
Registration Beach Lane Four, Shuttle to Function

10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
“Proven Plants for Southern Gardens” by Erica Glasener

11 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
Break

11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Questions and Answers by Glasener, David Chambers, Helen Phillips and Earnest Koone

12:15 p.m. to 1:15 a.m.
Lunch and Book Signing

1:15 a.m.
Return to Beach and Plant Fair and Sale

Registration, which includes lunch, is $45. To register, contact the Callaway Gardens Education Department at education@callawaygardens.com or 1-800-CALLAWAY (225-5292) ext. 5153. Space is limited so register today.

Enjoy free admission to the Callaway Gardens Plant Fair and Sale happening alongside the Gardening School. The plant fair offers hard to find plants that are unique to the Southeast. Plan to visit March 24 between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.; March 25 and 26 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.; and March 27 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Be sure to travel in a vehicle large enough to take home your finds!

Callaway Gardens® is in Pine Mountain, Ga., 60 minutes southwest of Atlanta and 30 minutes north of Columbus. For additional information, visit www.callawaygardens.com or call 1-800-CALLAWAY (225-5292).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I don't mind sharing, but...

OK bugs, I really don't mind sharing. It's fine if you want to nibble on a leaf here or there, snack on one of my tomatoes for a bit or suck on a stem. However, there is a line and you've crossed it. I am tired of carrying a bottle of alcohol with me when I go to look at my roses. You nasty little white sucker things that pop up overnight need to just move on. Gosh, I'm not even sure how you get on the plant in the first place. I mean, when I soak you in the alcohol you don't even move... you just die. Bleh. I don't even know what you are.

And you striped beetles that are ruining my cantaloupes... I have fly paper, spray regularly, squish you and cut off the fruit and leaves you ruin. I think I'm fighting a losing battle this year. We'll see. I'm not quite ready to give up.

Whoa, you caterpillars! As if I'm not having enough problems this year you are attacking everything green. I have never had a problem with anything other than the occasional horned green monsters on my tomatoes. This year I have a couple of different kinds. You're a little easier to manage. I can see you and you don't fly.

Not sure what's going on with the drooping leaves on some of the plants. I'm thinking that something is getting into the stems and chewing through... I haven't been able to find the culprit yet, but I will. I'm buying books, going on-line to garden sites and forums, asking questions. I will outwit you.

So, let's see... ah, I know, I forgot the brown spots that I wrote about in an earlier post. Still there. Still ugly. I cut one plant back to the soil almost thinking it had died. A little ray of sunshine there, though as I went out on the porch yesterday and saw new leaves and growth. Yes!

As if all those problems weren't enough to deal with, the guys who do the garden bumped one of my blueberry bushes that was just hanging in there, and now it's gone. Brown, shriveled up and dead. I think they guys accidentally yanked it up with the riding mower or something, then just stuck it back in the ground. Oh well, I still have two, knock on live wood, and I can plant another. Hate it though as this was its second year and I expected blueberries next year. The other two I planted last year gave me a handful of berries... then the birds found the bushes and had a nice little feast. Next year, netting or something.

What else? Tried peas for the first time, something ate them before they grew to an inch high. Next year I start them inside and transplant them when they're bigger.

The squirrels found my grape tomatoes and ate every last one. Which wasn't that big a deal as something else was attacking the bush and killing it.

Did I mention the deer that snacked on my big tomato bush? Pretty. Grrrrr....

I really want to be organic. The first few years of growing went so well... I guess each year I've been rolling the bug dice. This year I crapped out. Next year I plan to win big.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Is it the heat? Combating another problem in the garden...

I'm trying to figure out why I'm having so many problems with pests in my garden this year. I'm wondering if the continual high heat we're experiencing could be a factor.

I know part of my problem is that I didn't rotate my plantings. I planted cucumbers in the same spot as I did last year, ditto on my tomatoes.

At the end of the season I'm going to pull everything up and start over. I'm reconditioning the soil and will treat it with Preem (or is it Preen?) to cut back on the weeds that keep popping up. Well, maybe I'll do that. I happen to like the marigolds and periwinkles that come back up on their own each year.

I haven't thought much about it, but is Preem something I can even use if I'm going organic? Hmmm, probably not.

I am combating a different problem in the garden that I don't think has anything to do with bugs. Could be wrong, could be horribly wrong! My hydrangeas bloomed for only a short time this year and now they have a problem with spots on the leaves. They've been there for at least ten years, well before we bought the house. I believe the reason they didn't continue to bloom is a lack of water. I've never had to water them before, but as mentioned above, the heat is much worse this year.

I'm including a picture of the leaf just in case anyone has any ideas. I fertilized a few times with the 10-10-10, or whatever the standard fertilizer is... I'll have to go look at the bag.

I thought maybe it was a missing nutrient in the soil. Then I thought maybe it was some sort of fungus or disease.

I've checked the plant carefully and not been able to find any kind of bug, but I suppose it could be a tiny mite.

I've noticed the spots on some other plants and trees but they don't quite seem to be the same. I have sprayed with a fungicide (organic) to see if that will help. I also pruned the dead flowers so the plant could use its' energy to fight off whatever it is.

Something is attacking my garden. Well, a number of somethings are attacking. I learn a bit more each year about taking better care of my garden! What in the world did people do before the Internet? Guess they got up off their butts and talked to people!

Can you tell I'm pretty much a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants garden novice? I don't have a lot of time to spend in the garden, but love it. I get up every morning and water the plants, check for bugs, and do a bit of weeding or pruning. I usually try to spray with Neem or whatever treatment the forums say might work in the evenings.

I made an early mistake in not putting in quality soil. I'm slowly correcting that and this year will be completely rectifying the problem. However, between the bags of good soil and added fertilizer, not to mention mulch, I think the plants are getting enough nutrients.

Well, enough rambling for the day...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Beetle Battle

My cantaloupes are being attacked by that nasty, pesky, fruit-eating striped beetle. Some are striped, some have the spots (I think they're called a banded beetle). I looked them up and am doing everything I have found to get rid of the stupid things.

It's hard to see in the photo to the left, but the little striped pest in inside the cupped leave to the bottom right. It, or one of it's pals, chewed through the stem of the cantaloupe, which is why it's hanging down like that.

I've been cutting the pieces of stem off and throwing them in the trash figuring it's possible they're laying eggs in there, or otherwise harming the vine.

I have fly paper flying. Neem oil mix that I spray right on the suckers and it doesn't phase them at all. Alcohol and soap mix irritates them a tiny bit but not enough to make 'em even fly off the leaf... or better yet, DIE.

I'm squashing 'em when I can handle it (yuck) and having a little bit of fun taking the fly paper and catching them.

Just went out to see how things were flying and yep, they're still a-flyin'. There are some on the fly paper but it's also loaded with other bugs, moths, tiny things that look like baby flies and unknown thing-a-ma-bobbers.

I read somewhere that you can tell how bad your infestation is by counting the beetles on the fly paper. Sorry, not gonna do that and it doesn't seem like there's a ton of them on the fly paper anyway. I saw three or four on my vine though. I caught one with the fly paper, ha ha, hee, hee...

They've bored into four of my new cantaloupes. At least I guess it's the beetles. Heck, I could have another pest, too. I cut one open and it kind of looked like they were boring into the fruit to maybe lay eggs? See the photo at the right.

I'm cutting the fruit off the vine and tossing it in the trash can... It is VERY frustrating to have a nice little cantaloupe growing only to see a pile of orange-ish crud on the ground below one day, and then to find a hole or two or three. Spraying the cantaloupe with all the stuff I mentioned above isn't protecting them.

I want at least ONE cantaloupe off the vine please. I have two that may make it. They were already almost ready to pick when the infestation started and hopefully the rind is tough enough so they're not enticing to the stupid bugs.

My mom said that she'd been told to spray paint a piece of plywood bright yellow, smear some oil on it. She was told the bugs would be attracted to the yellow, get stuck in the oil. I'm going to go paint some thin squares in a little while and put them out there, too. Pretty soon I'll have a folk art garden, a wonder of wilted leaves and bright shiny bug-attracting things.

OK, I'm off to try and find something else to try. Before it's all said and done these may be the most expensive cantaloupes I've ever eaten.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Love to garden... love to talk about my garden...

I'm an experimental gardener. I'm a novice. I'm having a lot of fun and figured I'd talk about my experiences a bit and maybe find someone who could help me on occasion with the questions that defy answers.

I'm located in Georgia (USA) and it's hot, hot, hot at times! Luckily I'm on a well so water hasn't been an issue for me, although who knows what's going on under the ground... Some of my friends are paying over $50 a month to water their gardens.

I'm on a five-acre piece of land populated with deer, squirrels, rabbits and seemingly an unknown number of bugs that just love my garden.

I grow organically but I'm getting a little frustrated as some of the pests defy everything I throw at them.

Maybe instead of the glib gardener I should be the frustrated gardener! Love gardening but there's nothing worse than walking outside to water only to find the cucumber vine just eaten up with that powdery mildew crud, or see little bored holes in young cantaloupes...

However, there's nothing in the world food-wise than fresh tomatoes out of your own garden, or the joy of sharing a bunch of cucumbers with friends!

More later, I really need to hop outside and kill a few bugs!