Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 22, 2018

Who’s been eating my garden!?

By Taylor Sickels, Jefferson County ISU Extension horticulturist | Apr 04, 2018

NOTE: The Jefferson County Master Gardeners and Jefferson County ISU Extension and Outreach horticulturist Taylor Sickels are providing a semimonthly column, named “Dear Iris,” for The Fairfield Ledger readers. “Dear Iris” is scheduled to be in the paper the first and third Wednesday of each month. They will be providing information about horticulture and answering questions from readers. Questions can be sent to The Ledger at PO Box 110, Fairfield 52556, emailed to lifestyles@ffledger.com or dropped off at the office, 114 E. Broadway Ave. Be sure to include your name and contact information in case the Master Gardeners need more information.

Spring is upon us and the growing season is gearing up! Many gardeners are out buying their seeds, starting plants indoors, mulching, and fixing fences in anticipation of the warm weather to come. They aren’t the only ones excited for fresh veggies, lush hostas, vibrant tulips, and pungent herbs; the critters that roam Iowa gardens are too!

As the ISU Jefferson County horticulturist, one of the most frequent questions I get is: How do I keep the pests out of my garden. In truth, there are many methods for keeping those furry frenemies out but the first step is identifying who exactly is munching on all your green eye candy.

Deer love to eat terminal buds of trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, and turf grass. They will sneakily feast on them while you’re away. Also, male deer may damage or kill young trees as they scrape them with their antlers. When identifying deer damage, look for rough bites on the ends of plants one to six feet off the ground.

Rabbits, similar to deer, munch on anything and everything they can get their tiny paws on. Some gardeners confuse rabbits and deer when identifying them based on eating habits. An easy way to tell the difference is rabbits leave a clean angled “cut” for evidence.

Raccoons maintain a balanced diet of insects, plants, fish, eggs, and mice. Oh, and garbage. Raccoons are notorious for finding and subsequently ransacking your garden in its prime. Sweet corn and melons are a fan favorite of our masked bandit.

Let’s take a moment to turn to our subterranean rivals. Gophers chow down on roots, bulbs, tubers, and corms. They are not picky in the least. Although they live below ground, they will find time to come up and feed on your above ground plant parts as well. When they come up, you can identify them by their crescent or fan shaped mound and they always seal the door behind them because they weren’t born in a barn (probably).

Moles dig tunnels and can damage the roots and bulbs of your plants as well but only because they needed to push them out of the way on their search for earthworms, insects and grubs. The telltale difference between moles and gophers is that mole mounds look more like miniature volcanoes and they don’t plug the opening behind them.

If you would like to hear even more about identifying and managing wildlife in your garden, come listen to Moni Hayne’s lecture at the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Jefferson County Office on April 10 at 5:30 p.m. Moni Hayne’s current garden, established 17 years ago, encompasses about three acres including fruit trees, berries, perennial vegetables, annual vegetables, perennial flowers, trees and shrubs, along with several eclectic plants. After decades of gardening and living throughout the Midwest, she has dealt with four-legged critters of many kinds. There are many tools of the trade to manage these garden pests, and some might work better for one gardener or landscape than another. As a lifelong gardener, Moni looks forward to sharing what she’s learned in hopes it will help you have a more productive garden and joy in the process of building it.

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