Birds, squirrels and mildew
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Aug 29, 2012 | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Feeding the birds on my front ramp has presented a problem. A few squirrels think that it is an excellent idea to put a feeder on the railing with water in a pan underneath. At first I had only one little guy who had a snow white tail which led me to believe there was only one squirrel. Now I see a few more who also like the idea. It was presenting me with a real question: do I feed the birds and squirrels that expensive wild bird seed or just forget the whole thing? Then last week a kind reader told me that the answer was simple. Just sprinkle some cayenne pepper on the seeds and the squirrels will not bother the feeder ever again. The premise is that birds have no taste buds and won’t mind the pepper. Folks, if you are having same problem, get yourself a bottle of powdered cayenne pepper and lightly pepper the bird food. It does work

I placed the feeder where I can watch the birds through the glass front door while I am on the computer. At first, it seemed to scare the birds but now they pay no attention to me.

It seems that mildew is always at its worst in my garden in August. I have read in gardening books that it is because the spores are blown into our area from the deep South. How or why, mildew can wreck your plants which are susceptible to mildew, such as tall garden phlox, roses, lilacs, etc. The program which you have followed all spring and summer of spraying with a fungicide should continue through August. Any plant which is covered in mildew will have a poor chance of living through winter.

Hedges of all types which you keep clipped should be gone over now as growth for this season is about to cease. One secret to success for these plants is to never let them get out of control. And do NOT fertilize them now or new growth will start which will winterkill. I have a hard time keeping my boxwoods under control and since I have about ten of them, it can become quite a chore. It’s not the clipping, it’s the cleaning up afterwards.

Speaking of boxwoods, now is the time to check your local nurseries for sales of evergreens, both broad leaved and coniferous. The nurseries don’t want to try to keep them over till next spring and will often give you quite a deal. It is safe to plant them up through mid-September if you fill the hole with water and water the root ball well. If planting any evergreens in August, it’s wise to cover them with some kind of light cover to keep them out of the hot sun.

Someone mentioned last week that they had a guest who really admired snakes and was looking for a copperhead while in Kentucky in the lake area because he thought them so beautiful and had never seen one. Now, I can understand folks who admire many different kinds of animals but I have a real problem with admiring snakes. Many of my friends have doubted that I can tell a copperhead, a rattlesnake and a cottonmouth from any other kind of snake. If you have lived in an area that had all three in abundance, you don’t have a problem. Once having stared a copperhead in the face, so to speak, eyeball to eyeball, while stepping in the middle of a coil will give you a different perspective.

The subject of snakes came to mind when I recently realized that my once plentiful little garter snakes have almost disappeared. Either they are dying out for one reason or another, or my eyes are worse than I thought. I can still imagine I am hearing my Ma say, “Now, mind where you step, honey.”, that from a woman who had found a big copperhead in the cellar among the canned peaches and a rattlesnake under the front steps. From that wonderful woman, I learned many things. But one of the most useful things was to ring the big dinner bell if you found one of the bad boys in the cellar or under the front steps. That summoned Pa from the fields to dispatch any venomous snake.

By the way, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources puts out a great little booklet called “Kentucky Snakes”.

If you would like to order a copy of my book, “Going Through the Garden”, a month by month guide to gardening, please send a check for $13.50 to Ronella Stagner, 137 Main St., Cadiz, Kentucky 42211.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632.
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