By Brent Gray
This is a reprint article from a couple years ago but certainly worthy of bringing forth again as controlling moles was one of the most frequent questions asked at the Garden and Patio Show held in Jackson this past weekend.
Many homeowners have recently noticed an increase in raised ridges of soil across their lawns in somewhat erratic patterns. These ridges are caused by moles shallow tunneling in search of food which is mainly a diet of earthworms, beetles, grubs, and other insect larvae. The soft moist soil from winter rains followed by warmer weather of spring that brings insects and worms closer to the surface really gets these small critters on the move to satisfy their voracious appetites. While they rarely feed on plant material their tunneling can cause damage to the roots of turf, bulbs, etc.
Moles are small furry critters described as having beak-like noses, tiny rudimentary eyes, no visible ears, and paddle-like front feet with large claws and with stubby, hairless tails. In controlling moles just remember the reason they are there is because they are finding something to eat and if the food is not there then they will eventually leave.
Repellants such as caster oil may deter them from using tunnels where it is applied, but does not stop them from making new ones. There are several effective poisonous bait products available but caution must be taken in using these where other animals such as cats, dogs, squirrels, etc. may come in contact with them. One product containing the active ingredient warfarin, an anti-coagulant and simply called “mole gel bait” is packaged similar to a caulking tube that injects the gel into the tunnel and as the mole crawls through it he gets the gel on his face and feet which he attempts to lick off and ultimately is poisoned.
Another true bait type product with the active ingredient bromethalin is shaped, textured, and even smells and taste similar to earthworms. Apply by poking a small hole into the main tunnel then drop one of the earthworm shaped baits down into the tunnel. This product is marketed as Talpirid and other trade names. Information on Talpirid can be found at www.talpirid.com.
Trapping is still the homeowner’s most cost-effective and safest method of removing moles if you do not want to harm your beneficial earthworms or have concerns about pets and wildlife. However, trapping requires some skill, a lot of patience, and general knowledge of mole habits. A harpoon trap can be purchased from most any garden center. Early spring is usually the best time of year to trap since the moles are active very close to the soil surface and the soil is cool and moist. Not all tunnels are traveled regularly so it is important to find the main daily run. This is accomplished by simply making a step on the tunnels to firm the soil back down and checking each morning to find which tunnel is used daily then set the trap on that tunnel. If you are not successful after a couple of mornings reset the trap in another location.
Tips on growing perennials:
1. Choose a location that suits the plant. Full sun plants need full sun to flourish. Shade plants need shade. If it likes a dry location, don’t think it will grow in an area that sometimes floods after a hard rain. Most perennials do require a well-drained soil.
2. Amend the soil if needed. Add organic matter or slow- release fertilizers to improve the texture and nutrient levels of the soil.
3. Provide maintenance such as supplemental watering during times of drought and watch for insect and disease problems. Mulch, but keep the mulch away from the crown to prevent disease problems and rotting.
One problem that plagues some enthusiastic gardeners is overcrowding due to planting too close or failure to divide when the plants become too thick. Overcrowding can lead to several problems—weak plants, less flowers, disease and insect problems and overall an unattractive and unproductive planting. Early spring is a good time to assess perennial plantings and take action to remedy the overcrowding problem.
To avoid interrupting flowering, dig up summer and fall-blooming perennials when the new growth is a few inches high—that is in the early spring. Now is not the best time to dig up and divide the spring flowering plants such as peony and iris. Some fast-growing perennials need to be divided between one and three years after planting. Some examples of these are: aster, astilbe, beebalm, boltonia, garden mum, garden phlox, rudbeckia, Shasta daisy.
Divide ornamental perennial grasses before new growth emerges. Cut back the old culms to within 4 to 6 inches of the ground and use a sharp shovel or in some cases an axe to slice or hack one or more wedges out of the crown. Immediately plant them elsewhere.
Cool season vegetables should be growing well since the temperatures across most of Mississippi have mostly been in the fifties at night and seventies during the day for a while. These are the optimum temperatures for these plants to grow. Vegetables that have not been growing well recently should be examined for diseases, insects, compacted soil or other circumstances that are limiting growth.
Potatoes should be doing well. Don’t be concerned if a freeze kills the tops of the potato plant since the seed piece has reserves to keep the plant growing. Be ready to reestablish bed height after a downpour washes the soil away since the new potatoes need to be kept below the soil surface.
Remember it takes time for cover crops to decompose after they are turned in. Allow at least three weeks for the soil microbes to reduce the green plant to soil organic matter before planting your spring vegetables. Mowing the cover crops with a mulching mower tears them into small pieces which are metabolized quicker.
NuMex Jalmundo is a relatively new jalapeno pepper bred to make large, mildly hot peppers for stuffing. New Mexico State University developed the pepper to meet demand for “poppers” and other stuffed jalapeno uses. Seeds are available from several mail order seed companies.
Wayne Wells, Lelia Kelly, David Nagel