By Brent Gray
We normally associate lawn pests as insects, weeds or diseases but occasionally we may encounter damage from some of the four legged critters from the wild.
I recently attended the Fall Garden Festival held at the Truck Crops Research Center in Crystal Springs answering lawn care questions from the help desk booth. Some of the more frequent questions were problems dealing with digging or burrowing animals such as armadillos, moles, raccoons, etc.
A manicured lawn can be severely damaged from the voracious and destructive digging caused from armadillos in a single night. These pre-historic looking nine-banded armor-shelled animals with strong claws and long snouts can rip up a lawn in only hours looking for morsels of their favorite foods of frogs, crickets, earthworms, insect larvae, ants and any other tasty invertebrates.
So how can we keep them from destroying our lawns? Even though you may hear of many home remedies or tales for their control it actually comes down to only a few choices of elimination of the food supply, exclusion, shooting or trapping.
Shooting can become a very controversial subject and may not be legal in many areas. Fencing can be effective but often does not lend well to the landscape. Therefore, your choices may be narrowed only to trapping or eliminating the food supply with insecticides.
Eliminating their food supply may appear to be the most logical but this too can become difficult and no one wants to remove all the beneficial frogs and earthworms from their lawn. Trapping can be effective but takes some skill and patience. Armadillos have somewhat poor eyesight and tend to follow along fences, border walls, etc. so erecting temporary wings (fencing or boards) to the entrance of a small live animal trap helps herd the critters into the trap. Baits put inside the trap such as overripe fruit (apples or bananas) or live crickets or earthworms held in a thin netting or panty- hose will help lure them into the trap.
Propagation The Easy Way
Rather than rooting cuttings, you can propagate shrubs and some woody-type perennials by layering. This is a really simple technique of rooting a stem while it is still attached to the parent plant.
Choose a new shoot that’s long enough to touch the ground and that’s on the side of the plant that receives the most sun. Use a sharp knife to wound the stem on one side, cutting a slit at an angle halfway through the stem or scraping a narrow band of bark from around the stem.
Bend the injured stem so that it touches a depression in the soil with the tip of the stem protruding from the soil. Cover the injured part of the stem with soil, and anchor it in place with a forked stick, brick, or rock. Let it remain in place all winter. Then in spring, cut the rooted stem free from the parent plant. Presto! You have a clone of your favorite plant to set out directly in a new bed or to pot for transplant later in the spring.
Be sure and pay particular attention to watering and caring for your new plant through the first growing season. Good candidates for layering are azalea, rosemary, sage, rose, fig, lavender, abelia, forsythia, and weigela. Try this technique on a whole bunch of your favorite plants this fall. What have you got to lose, but just a few minutes of your time?
Next spring you may be surprised at the results and your gardening friends will be thankful and impressed when you share the little clones with them. If they ask you how you did it, you can tell them you just sat in the house all winter while the plant did the work!
Tomato fruit worm seems more abundant this fall then normal. You can control this destructive caterpillar with one of the Bt insecticides that are safe for everything but caterpillars. Check with your local garden supply centers for one of several brands.
Lizzano cherry tomatoes were once again one of the most impressive varieties at the Truck Crops Fall Garden Fest. These compact tomato plants were grown without any staking or caging and were covered with small red tomatoes. Lizzano is well suited for growing in hanging baskets or pots.
Asian rat tail radish was one of the more unusual plants found at the garden fest. These radishes are not grown for the root, but for their seed pods.
The pods do resemble rat tails and the flavor is a sweet, very mild radish. This would be a good addition for gardeners who like to surprise their dinner guests with unusual taste treats.
Celery is one of the most difficult vegetables to grow in Mississippi. The young plants are slow growing and the plant is neither cold nor heat tolerant.
Gardeners who want celery for flavor in cooking should try smallage or cutting celery. Smallage is grown for leaves and does not make the long, thick petiole that we eat on normal celery. The Afina variety was grown for the garden fest and appeared to do well.
Wayne Wells, Lelia Kelly, David Nagel