Miscellaneous

Beavers: A beaver from a nearby stream is wreaking havoc on the trees in my landscape. What can I do to protect the trees in the neighborhood?

Answers: Beavers are interesting creatures to watch but are very destructive. Their razor-sharp teeth can damage or destroy a prized shade tree in a short time. You have only two options: protect the tree or remove the beaver from the area.  Protection is best accomplished by placing hardware cloth, woven wire or metal barriers around valued trees. The barrier should extend from ground level to a height of four to five feet to protect the trunk. Trapping and removing the beaver from the area is another option.  In most cases, homeowners should leave this task to a professional. Your local city animal control may be able to offer additional assistance.

Fertilizing with bone meal: I am an organic gardener and have always relied on bone meal as a fertilizer. A friend of mine told me to stop using bone meal because it could be contaminated with Mad Cow Disease.  Is that true?

Answers: There has been much press about Mad Cow Disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE).  Suggestions have been made that there is a link between the use of bone meal that came from BSE infected cattle and the contraction of Mad Cow disease in England. This has made some United States gardeners nervous about using bone meal. 

According to the U.S.D.A., it is very unlikely that we need to be concerned about using bone meal in our gardens because of several factors:

  • The U.S.D.A. has not allowed British beef or cattle-generated products to be imported since 1989;

  • No cattle born in the USA have tested positive for BSE; and

  • In the United States, two treatments for animal carcasses are used for bone meal production - heat and a solvent extraction.

England was only using heat treatments. It is now known that heat plus solvent extraction kills BSE, but heat without solvent extraction does not. Based on this information, the recommendation is to continue using bone meal as a nutrient source. It is important in cases like this to separate fact from hysteria.

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Frost-free date:  What is the frost-free date in the Kansas City area?

Answers: The frost-free date in the metropolitan area is around April 15.  It is important to understand what that date means.  Frost-free dates are based on percentages.  The frost-free date is determined by when there will be a 50-50 chance of a frost occurring.  Each day following this date, the chance of frost is reduced by two to three percent.  After the first of May there is a less than five percent chance of a frost occurring.  Plants such as tomatoes and peppers that do not tolerate frost are best planted after May 1.

Garden tools — Care and winter storage of: Do you have any hints for care of garden tools now that the season is over and they will be stored for winter?

Answers: Good tools are expensive.  You can maintain your investment if you take a few minutes to do some year-end maintenance. Clean tools with a wire brush and sharpen the surfaces. Apply a coat of light oil or product such as WD-40 to metal surfaces. Wipe wooden handles with an all-purpose cleaner and apply a light coating of wood preservative. This will prevent splintering of the wood as it ages. Store the tools in a protected, indoor area until they are needed next spring.

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Moles: A mole is damaging my front lawn. My neighbor told me that grubs are the reason for the mole. Is there any truth to that?

Answers: While it is true that moles do feed on grubs, it is not true that just because you have moles you have grubs. Moles forage through the lawn in search of food. They eat all types of soil-inhabiting insects including earthworms. The best method of combating a mole is with a trap. Mole traps should be set in the longer, straighter tunnels running through the lawn. They are kill type traps and are highly effective if set properly.

Grubs feed on the roots of the lawn, killing it in late summer. The best method of grub control is the application of an appropriate insecticide at the proper time. Preventive products such as Merit (active ingredient – imidacloprid) can be applied in June or early July for best results. Rescue treatments such as Dylox (active ingredient – trichlorfon) are best applied in mid-August just after the grubs hatch. Moles are most prevalent in the late fall and again in the late winter through early spring. Grub treatments at those times of year are ineffective and add unnecessary chemicals to the environment.

Recycling cut Christmas trees: My family will have a cut Christmas tree this season. What can I do with it after the holidays besides putting it in the trash to take up landfill space?

Answers: This is a great question because there are so many creative uses for the tree. On a cold winter day when the kids are home from school on winter break, help them decorate it for the birds. Stake the tree outdoors in view from the inside the home. The family can string popcorn, cranberries or other inexpensive fruits and berries. Hang suet cakes and pine cones rolled in peanut butter and bird seed from the tree. The reward will be the enjoyment of bird watching on cold winter days.

Other suggestions:

  • Cut up the tree and compost or use as mulch in the garden.

  • Place the whole tree in a corner of the yard to provide shelter for the animals.

  • Arrange cut branches in empty garden pots to provide winter interest.

  • Drop the tree at the edge of a pond or lake (when permissible) to provide a hiding place for fish.

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