Maintenance Information

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rachel Carson's Legacy

I was listening to a program on NPR yesterday about Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, a ground breaking work siting the use of pesticides and their effect on wildlife. This year is the 50th anniversay of the publication of Silent Spring. Ms. Carson's work led to many positve changes in the application and use of pesticides and the banning of a multitude of products that remain in the environment over long periods of time leading to reduced birth rates and even extinction in birds and other animals and insects.The program noted that the EPA was also formed as a result of concerns that arose in the light of Carson's work.

When I went through my courses at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo in the early 1980's I studied "integrated pest management". This course was a direct result of the work put forth by Rachel Carson.  Rather than immediatly going to a chemical spray for pest problems the idea of integrated pest management was to use a combination of beneficial insects and bacterias, low toxicity sprays and more resistant strains of plants.  We did learn about pesticides but I was glad to see that many of the most hazardous materials had been banned.

The current movement towards organic produce and natural products for fertilizing and soil ammnedments is also a continuation of Rachel Carson's legacy.  As generations of consumers have become more aware of the dangers of lingering chemicals in the soil and water supply it has forced the large supermarket chains to demand more organic produce and also meats,poultry and fish.

As gardeners we can do at home what organic farmers are doing in the fields.  Promote an active bird and beneficial insect community. They help control the pests that eat our plants.  Rather than spraying with a pesticide try a mild soapy solution in a hose end sprayer for aphids, spider mites and mothes/larvae.  Gather up the snails in the evening instead of baiting. This actually worked a lot better in my garden than snail bait ever did.  Use natural fertilizers rather than chemical formulations. Luckily we now have several lines of great products for this.  Good old manure works well and compost from home. Be sure and leach before use (water down to wash away salts).
If you do use pesticide, do so sparingly. Usually 1 or 2 treatments will be enough to control a
problem.  Keep in mind that many pesticides and herbicides now available are held to a much more stringent standard so occasional use is not a horrible thing.

In our garden we always have an active ecosystem present because there are the basic needs of living creatures in the garden: fresh water available, flowers for nectar, seed heads too for birds, foliage for protection from predators, and fruiting trees.  Yes, we had some insect damage, some snails and the influx of wildlife but it all balanced out pretty well because there were beneficial insects, birds and bacteria to help out and Me, the gardener, keeping an eye out for problem spots.  My favorite helpers were the praying Mantis with their triangular heads and long legs! Very cool.

So yay- Rachel Carson! Thanks for caring about not only the birds and wildlife but our children as well. 












Saturday, September 15, 2012

Gopher Resistant Plants

For my Senior Project at Cal Poly I wrote a manual on Deer Control in Ornamental Gardens subsequently I have used that work, mostly in the form of lists of plants that are resistant to Deer damage, to help me with my design service. My favorite lists were given to me by Bob Tanem at Tanem's Nursery in Santa Venetia (San Rafael, Ca.). Many of you may have heard his gardening program on KGO.  These lists are guides at best. When gardening in Deer Country it is a given that everything is an experiment and damage can be done on any plant.

Recently we have had a huge influx of gophers into the area (see my blog- Rodent Explosion) and I started to wonder if there was a list of gopher resistant plants.  As I said these lists are not fool proof but can help out.  On our landscape projects where gophers are a problem we have to use wire baskets for all the plants and wire under the lawn- costly!  I often help at my Mother's home where we have Deer, Gophers, Jackrabbits, Wild Turkeys etc..... and since she lives on a limited income we look for many cost cutting strategies.

After searching the Web and consulting sources I made this collated list of plants to try. If you have any additions or subtractions let me know as it is an ongoing trial.

Lois' Cross Referenced List of Gopher Resistant Plants

Allium
Amaryllis belladonna
Anemone blanda
Aquilegia- Columbine
Artemisia- wormwood
Buddleja- butterfly bush
Camassia
Ceanothus- wild lilac (deer eat these)
Chionodoxa gigantea
Cistus-rockrose
Coleonema-breath of heaven
Colichum-autumn crocus
Crocosmia-montbretia
Cyclamen
Digitalis-foxglove
Euphorbias-spurge
Festuca californica-california fescue  'serpentine blue'
Galanthus elwesii
Hellebore-lenten rose
Hyacinthus orientalis, Hyacinthoides
Iris- the Iris Family  also Dietes Vegeta or Moraea
Juncus patens- California spreading rush
Lavandula- lavender
Leocojum-snowflake
Lonicera nitida 'baggessens gold'- box honeysuckle
Muscari
Mimulus-monkey flower
Narcissus and Jonquils- daffodils
Nerium olenader- Oleander
Onions and Garlic- also Society Garlic (Tulbaghia)
Ribes sp.- currants
Rosmarinus-rosemary
Sidalacea-mallow
Scilla siberica
Salvia-sages
Schinus molle- California Pepper Tree (latex- caustic sap)
Tagetes lemmonii- lemon marigold
Westringia-caost rosemary
Yucca

maybe- mesembrianthemum family, oregano, thyme, Echium, Scabiosa, some Cornus sp.,
Punica, Leonotis

As you can see there are a lot of bulbs that the Gophers don't like and as with Deer, herby/smelly plants are not a favorite. Many of the plants on the list are also on the Deer resistant lists. Euphorbia lathyris (biennial) is know as "gopher plant" as it supposedly repels them with its caustic latex sap. Will have to try this.
I got an email from "Shake-Away" repellents about my Rodent Explosion Blog and they suggested their products to help out also. Remember that gophers are mostly underground.
I am excited to have this long list to experiment with and will let you know how it goes. I welcome suggestions/comments on plants you have had success with too.
 It should be a live and let live world out in the garden not a battle!