The festivities of holidays are almost over, winter has arrived, and our hills are once again the lush emerald that we, and the cattle adore. Congratulate yourself on a year well-spent growing your own food and tending to your plants. Now it is time to put your gardens to bed and give yourself a bit of respite. With the colder weather, we are fortunate that lemons, grapefruit, and tangelos are ripe to help us stay healthy.
There is still time to plant bulbs through the end of January for a late spring show. All bulbs need well-drained soil, full sun, or partial shade. Avoid planting in soggy soils where the bulbs will rot. Instead of lining bulbs up in a row, scatter them in clusters for a more natural look. Since deer, squirrels, raccoons, and rabbits enjoy eating many bulb flowers, experiment with planting narcissus cultivars, snowflakes, and snow drops (galanthus) as these repel the critters with their toxicity.
Speaking of critters, our readers enjoyed the article on keeping unwanted guests from taking refuge in homes. From the response, it is apparent that this season of green has indeed brought the rodents to our doorsteps in increasing numbers. Excellent advice came to me from Jenny Papka of Native Bird Connections. With her permission, I am printing her edited suggestions here:
âWhat you term as “vermin” actually misleads people, since rodents, skunks, wasps and even mosquitoes are necessary in Nature. Yes they are annoying in many cases, but it is important to be respectful of why they can actually be good. Rodents are like chocolate for almost all young wild animals, and often are a life-long food source for many. The advice given about getting rid of ivy, etc is helpful, yet other animals will also be impacted. For example, Barn owls nest in palm trees, especially the dead frond areas just under the green crown. Barn owls are the BEST rodent controllers around and other than applauding their presence we do not have to do anything. Obviously we don’t want rodents inside our houses or out buildings, yet annihilation is not ideal for anyone. The advice listed is excellent particularly about what we are responsible for doing around our houses.
In Contra Costa County, skunks are officially considered rabies vectors. This is NOT true in other counties. Obviously caution should always be utilized but seeing a skunk, even in the daytime, does not automatically indicate that it is sick. Skunks are omnivores and will eat many of the bothersome creatures we dislike, snails, slugs, rodents, fruit, and yellow jacket larvae. Skunks look for mates in early spring (Feb usually) otherwise they are solitary and crepuscular. So most of the year they are not obvious. This year is a “rebound year” as well, especially for rodents since last year was so dry. The rain this year promises more grass/food so rodents are producing large families. Information and education really increases tolerance and better, more humane choices. Thank you for a good article.â
Jenny also mentioned that it is illegal (and inhumane) to trap and relocate any wildlife. She also does not suggest acquiring cats as rodent control because cats are responsible for the deaths of millions of birds daily, another contentious subject.
Other ways to eliminate the rodents is to install barn owl boxes to encourage owls to your yard. Areas with heavy Great horned owl presence usually will not support barn owl populations (Great horned eat barn owls) but any owl is good for rodent control. Native Bird Connections has boxes available at Wild Birds Unlimited in Pleasant Hill for a $100 donation. Also of importance is to not use the sticky traps as they can entangle other animals creating suffering and a lingering death. Ninety percent of wildlife in the San Francisco Bay Area has rodenticides in their tissues including coyotes, bobcats, and foxes according to WildCare in Marin. This means that the use of poisons for all applications move through the food chain and should be avoided. My advice is to contact Vector Control at 925-771-6142 or visit www.ContraCostaMosquito.com when you have questions or concerns.
Enjoy the cold nights, the rainy days, and the seasonâs greening. Thanks for allowing me to be your gardening guide on the side. Get ready for great new year of horticultural joys.
Cynthia Brianâs January New Year Gardening Tips:
â« BRING health inside with power plants of ferns, palms, spider plants, and other air-cleansing specimens. Tropical houseplants absorb indoor toxins and add humidity to the air saving you dollars on heating.
â« BUY a copy of âGreat Garden Quotesâ, a coloring book with wit, wisdom, and heart from the editors of GreenPrints, the Weeders Digest. Pat Stone, the editor, was a co-author with me on Chicken Soup for the Gardenerâs Soul. Youâll love this new coloring book with inspiring garden axioms. www.GreenPrints.com
â« ALLOW the organic matter of chopped leaves and lawn clippings to decompose on the soil during the dormant season.
â« ADD a cover crop to keep soil healthy, avoid erosion, and help with fertility.
â« PICK Meyer lemons and use for juicing, cooking, and baking. This rich citrus will help fend off colds.
â« PROTECT tender plants from frost by covering with burlap or cloth. Do not use plastic as it will maximize the freeze.
â« PRUNING for dormant fruit trees and shrubs begins this month.
â« TIDY your yard by cutting back your chrysanthemums to six inches above the ground, and removing dead foliage from plants.
â« SPRAY your peach trees with a concoction of fixed copper or lime sulfur after all the leaves have fallen from the tree to control peach leaf curl. Repeat this process in late January and February for best results.
â« PLANT bareroot stock such as grapes, berries, artichokes, roses, and several fruit trees.
â« PRUNE roses, vines, and berry bushes to encourage new growth.
â« CUT bouquets of geranium flowers for indoors and snip pieces to plant in other areas.
â« DONATE $100 to Native Bird Connections and receive an owl box for your garden.
â« REMOVE all ornaments, lights, and tinsel from your Christmas trees before placing on the curb for composting pick-up.
â« EXPRESS gratitude for all the green that nature is bestowing on us!
Happy Gardening and Happy Growing! Happy, Healthy, Auspicious New Year!
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The Goddess Gardener
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