Natural alternatives can deter garden pests, rodents

By Debrah Dubay
Posted 8/1/19

As I write this, all across Taos, hollyhocks are stretching their bloom stocks skyward, Russian sage is in full force while thistles line the roadsides and grow in opportune open …

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Natural alternatives can deter garden pests, rodents

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As I write this, all across Taos, hollyhocks are stretching their bloom stocks skyward, Russian sage is in full force while thistles line the roadsides and grow in opportune open spaces. At the end of July it seems all flowers, vegetables and, yes, weeds are in bloom, bees are busily at work and the full Thunder Moon, true to its name, brings rain to help flowers prepare for the August moon, when all things ripen.

Despite the short growing season, gardening in Taos continues to be a charming challenge. Critters, weeds and difficult soil conditions may serve to check your constant efforts to achieve a gardening work of art. There may be some natural solutions you may want to consider to help deter rabbits, moles, voles and prairie dogs and wasps.

New shoots or seedlings don't have a chance with rabbits in the yard and their grazing can be hazardous to your garden. In general you will find blood meal an ideal deterrent for rabbits. The blood meal triggers a fight or flight instinct in rabbits and their natural response is - run! The side benefit is that the blood meal will also provide your plants with a natural slow release source of nitrogen.

Moles, voles, prairie dogs and other underground critters eat roots, plants and create hazardous tunnels in your yard, generally making them a persistent pest that can be difficult to eliminate. In frustration some people resort to traps or worse.

However, an effective alternative may be found in products containing granulated castor oil available in local garden centers. It is a very effective repellent for these ground dwellers. The granules are spread over the lawn, around flower gardens and around tubers and bulbs when planting. Watering dissolves the granules into the ground and repels pests for several months. The product is not poisonous to these pests but causes upset stomach and itching. The result is that moles, voles and prairie dogs will, on their own, conveniently choose to vacate the premises.

Wasps can be difficult or scary for people to deal with and for those who are allergic to wasps they can be dangerous. Still, wasps are an important benefit to gardens and the ecosystem. While wasps are important pollinators, additionally they are little pest-eating machines. Yes, they may eat some beneficial insects, but for the most part they are voracious eaters of mosquitoes, caterpillars, grubs and weevils.

Nonetheless, it is extremely inconvenient to have a wasp's nest near doorways and under portals where they seem to have a preference to build. As a deterrent in the spring before nests have been built, you can open a paper lunch bag and fill it with newspaper or paper towels to form a spherical shape. Once you have filled the bag, tie a string around the top of the bag and hang it near your doorway or in locations where wasps have previously built nests. Wasps are territorial and do not like to establish a community where competing wasp nests are located. Seeing the bag they will most likely regard it as competition and build in another location, leaving you free to come and go in peace.

Information about Los Jardineros is at gardencluboftaos.org. Meetings are the third Thursday of each month except in August.

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