Q: We have a large number of squirrels on our property this fall. They chewed up our vegetable plants and ate most of our tomato fruits. A neighbor told us this was the problem because of our extremely dry summer, so we places saucers of water in the garden, but that did not do anything. Is there any way to get rid of them?
D. L. of Belleville
A: Squirrels have a liking for many different plants, as at least 76 species of plants are eaten by squirrels. Nuts and acorns are their favorite food. Moth balls work for a short period of time in flower beds and vegetable gardens. Recent research has shown that squirrels do not live in areas where the trees are just elm and willows growing. They will even dig in the garden to try and find insect larvae which they eat readily. Also mushrooms are on the menu as well.
At this time of the year you may need to hunt them as my wife’s grandmother made a great squirrel pie. But make sure you have read up on the squirrel season and other details. You can usually find a free copy in a sporting goods store.
If you plan on planting spring flowering bulbs just limit your planting to daffodils as most mammals love the other spring bulbs.
Q: When is the best time to cut back ornamental grasses fall, winter or spring?
S. S. of Troy
A: When the foliage begins to die back in the fall, you can cut back the ornamental grasses anytime — fall, winter and spring. But when the grasses begin to show green in spring, you do not want to cut them back to the new green bases of the newly developing grass tips. If you like winter birds, the ornamental grasses provide a good winter protection for overwintering birds.
Q: We grew mums this fall. We mulched them but did not cut them off. Some neighbor told us not to cut them off in the fall because the cold weather would get down into the stems and make them weak. Do you cut them off in the spring? And how far do you cut them back?
N.E. of Belleville
A: The information that you were given is a garden myth. Cut your mums back in the fall as any debris provides overwintering sites for insects and diseases, which becomes a problem and may kill your plants. Clean out any other debris to keep your plants healthy. Cut your mums back to one inch above the soil and then apply a winter mulch in early winter after the mums have gone dormant. This will also prevent the mums from heaving up and out of the ground.
Things to do this week
- At half time during one of the football games, get out and wear off the calories from the Thanksgiving meal and apply a dormant or late season fertilizer winter fertilizer (a low nitrogen, high phosphorus, and high potassium) to your cool season turf grass. This will be one of the most important fertilizer applications that you can make for your lawn.