Moles, voles and other stuff that bugs you

By Susan Stone

I was sitting on my porch this morning, when I noticed the stones in my dry bed creek moving. At first, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, but no, it was a mole trying to navigate under the rocks.

You don’t have to travel far to see how active the moles are this season. In fact most of you won’t have to leave your front yard.

Moles are really harmless and even beneficial, for the most part. They aerate your soil, which helps plants grow. Contrary to rumor, they do not eat the roots of your plants — that would be the voles. They are in constant search for food, as they eat approximately 40-60 percent of their body weight in grubs and earthworms each day.

But if you would like to chase moles out of the lawn, there are a few things you can do before you start setting traps. They have a very keen sense of smell and do not like the odor of onion or garlic, so you can crush onions or garlic cloves and plant it in their trail. I have heard that Juicy Fruit® gum is rather bothersome to them as well.

The remedy is the same for voles. Thank goodness they are not as common as moles are here in the Lowcountry. Voles can be very destructive, especially with potted plants.

Also, July is the month we typically see molds and funguses getting a foothold. The first line of defense is air circulation. If your shrubs are up against the house, trim them back. Give your home and your landscape room to breathe.

Here are some tried and true remedies to deal with fungus and molds:

• Powdery mildew, rust and other funguses: Our beloved Crepe Myrtles and roses are very susceptible to powdery mildew. Early detection and treatment are vital. Milk & buttermilk can be an effective remedy if caught early. Simply use full to half strength (can be mixed with water) and spray every 7-10 days. Compost Tea has the same effect.

• Garlic is not only a good fungicide, but an excellent insecticide as well. You should know that like many insecticides, it is not selective. It will kill even the non-harmful or beneficial insects. To make a batch, I use about 10 cloves to a gallon of water. The garlic must be crushed and then steeped in the water (set in the sun), or use a blender to mix, then strain.

Making Compost Tea is very easy and doubles as a liquid fertilizer. Just like any other tea, steep in water (out in the sun is perfect), strain and use. You can add Blood Meal, Bone Meal and or Manure to the mix, set aside for a week to dissolve, then pour a little over your plants each week. This is a perfect fertilizer for lawns too.

• One fungus that spreads quickly in warm, wet weather is Anthracnose. It is a serious disease that affects Dogwoods. Symptoms of Dogwood Anthracnose include deformed flowers, and small circular spots on the leaves. I recommend taking a sample to your county extension office for information on how to properly diagnose the problem.

Anytime you prune back plants that have been affected by disease, cut well below the affected area. Sterilize your tools with alcohol or diluted bleach between cuts to prevent spreading the problem.

Keeping your plants healthy is your best defense against infestations and diseases. Remember to destroy or remove all trimmings, twigs and leaves. The spores are still active and will move with the wind.

Please send your questions and garden wisdom to The Garden Guru at susan@outdoorarchitecture.com.

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