Rss Feed
Tweeter button
Facebook button

Archives for December 12, 2016

Saratoga residents: Rabbits wreak havoc in yards

SARATOGA — Hardly anyone wants to believe a cute little cottontail could be a pest, unless, of course, you believe “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.”

Saratoga residents like Marilynn Fulton know it’s true. Some residents say they haven’t seen the pesky critters in the past month or so, but others say they regularly wreak havoc in their yards. Many feel stuck with a problem they can’t seem to shake. City officials said no one’s contacted them about rabbit problems.

“They have been here since we moved in in 1978,” City Councilwoman Mary-Lynne Bernald said. “I remember the second year we were here, I saw one around Easter time.” The Easter Bunny it was not. “There are tons of rabbits,” Fulton said. “I tried to block the holes in my yard, but they would just get around them.” Fulton tried to use rabbit spray, without any luck. As a result, flowers don’t survive in her yard because the rabbits eat them all.

Saratoga resident Bryan Knysh has also had several rabbits move into his back yard in the past couple of years. “They don’t seem overly bothered by our dog; he chases them, but they just run and hide in our hedge,” Knysh said. “They seem to be voracious eaters. They have eaten a lot of the vegetation in our back yard.” Rabbits having eaten most of the lawn so now only dirt remains, he said.

Since he hasn’t see any rabbits in the past month, Knysh assumed they moved on to greener pastures. “We are currently landscaping our yard, so it sure would be great to know how to get rid of the rabbits,” he said. “I would hate for them to destroy our new landscaping as they did our previous shrubs and lawn.”

Because of the Santa Clara County landscape, residents frequently share their property with pests, including rabbits, said Vera Cark, a volunteer for the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County.

“People can put up a physical barrier like a fence, but sometimes that might entail enclosing their entire property,” she said.” One of the issues with this is that in order to kill them, you have to have a special pest control license.”

Saratoga resident Dina Cotton thought an outdoor cat might help control rabbit population, as well as the rats and gophers that also cause problems. “The bunnies have grown up and now are quite large,” Cotton said. “It seems that they were eating the early lawn shoots this last spring.”

Cotton learned many tips to help keep the rabbits at bay. “I put down mothballs and cayenne pepper along my perimeter; it seems to slows them down,” she said. “I put street flares—red ones that burn sulfur from car supply stores—down those dreaded gopher holes and tuck dirt around it so the smoke will stay in. You can see where they connect when the sulphur starts to fill their pathways that connect the hole you are filling up with sulphur.”

It does not hurt them, Cotton said. For her and other residents more fencing is not an option. “We are on a steep slope, so any more fencing would be a major undertaking,” she said. “It might be a spring project, but it’s so sad to see them eating up tasty new growth.”

The University of California’s Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program offers tips to those dealing with rabbit problems. The Web site at lists several ways to deal with the problem. These include fencing, using trunk guards, trapping, repelling and habitat management.

Mayor Manny Cappello said the city hasn’t received any complaints about the rabbits. “I’ve noticed more rabbits and more wildlife in general,” Cappello said. “I’m not sure there’s an issue.” Cappello said the city contracts with San Jose Animal Control. Calls to that agency were not returned by press time.

Bernald tried to deter the rabbits by planting different plants in her yard and even moved forward with a whole new landscaping plan. “I can’t plant flowers or a lot of bushes,” Bernald said. “I tried to find alternative plants, but even the drought-resistant ones have been eaten by the rabbits.”

Bernald hasn’t been successful in getting rid of the rabbits since the problem got really bad about three years ago. “My dogs just watch the rabbits, like, ‘Oh, look it’s a bunny,’” she said.

Some people think they are gone because they don’t see them for a while, but it’s because they burrow, Bernald said. “They usually come out in the morning, and the early evening and they may be traveling between yards,” she said. “We don’t always see them at the same time, though.”

Bernald sees a trend, however, and says the rabbit population directly correlates to the city’s expansion. “The growth in the city pushed the wildlife from open spaces to occupied spaces,” she said. “The population growth is just so tremendous in this area.”

Bernald, who lives near West Valley College, tried to put up chicken wire fencing, but it had little impact on the furry creatures. She suggests convening a forum for people to share what has worked for them.

Article source:

A new addition to Elkhart’s Wellfield Botanic Gardens

Eric Garton, executive director of Wellfield Botanic Gardens, 1011 N. Main St., Elkhart, talks about the new Japanese garden. Tribune Photo/MARSHALL V. KING

Article source:

Tropical Gardening: Norfolk island pines for a cool living Christmas touch

Many folks already purchased their Christmas tree this year, and if they were cut on the mainland and shipped here the trees might already be losing needles.

Some say it is the piney odor that makes it seem like Christmas. Other folks might find it a bit sad to see a cut tree in the process of dying right before their eyes.

There is another alternative and that is using a potted living tree that can be planted after the holidays. The ones most readily available are what we refer to as Norfolk pines.

In Hawaii, what we call Norfolk pines might actually be Cook pines or possibly hybrids between the two species. Unfortunately, they have no scent. This issue can be solved by using boughs of Douglas fir or spruce since these are the trees brought from the mainland and often trimmed to improve their appearance as they fade away. The trimmings are usually discarded so tree salespeople often give the cuttings freely.

Since the Big Island has many microclimates, ranging from lowland tropical to high mountain alpine, test plantings of Douglas fir were established in the uplands on the Hamakua side. There also are some trees thriving near the monument erected to mark the spot where botanist David Douglas was killed. Hopefully, we someday will see Douglas firs growing in the mountains above 5,000 feet and supplied by local Christmas tree farmers. This would bring a multimillion-dollar business back home. We already have nurseries growing potted Portuguese cypress and Monterey pine that then can be planted in gardens at cooler elevations.

Island landscapes vary with locale and Norfolk pines might fit the bill in upland regions, where a piney woods effect is desired. Since this tropical relative of the pine does not have a piney woods fragrance, a mixed planting with true pines will take care of that.

The Loblolly pine, Sugi pine and coastal redwood are sometimes available from the state forestry service and can be grown at elevations of 3,000 feet and higher. Norfolk pines can be grown even at sea level. Their big advantage is they make excellent windbreaks and are effective in establishing forest watersheds. They also can be planted as a source of cut Christmas trees.

Captain Cook is credited with the discovery of this uniquely symmetrical tree that has been described as being similar to a huge green candle. It was introduced to Hawaii in the 19th century and belongs to a group of conifers known as Araucarias. This includes some of the largest, tallest and most long-lived evergreen trees in the world.

In earlier geological periods, members of this family were included among the most widespread of the seed-bearing plants. Nowadays, they are found only in a limited region, with Australia, New Caledonia and other islands in the southwest Pacific area being the home of many species in this family. Some also can be found in South America, the home of the famed monkey puzzle tree of Chile. Other members include the Australian bunya bunya pine with its 20-pound cones and the Cook pine from New Caledonia.

If you don’t have a Norfolk pine, check with our local nurseries, garden shops or the forestry service. The forestry service supplies small plants for reforestation projects at a very low price. Fifty or more plants must be purchased and orders are usually taken in advance. They also are quite easy to grow from seed. If you have access to a mature tree, you can grow your own with patience and time.

At 15 years or older, Norfolk island pines begin to produce seed cones. The cone is composed of a central stalk and many seed scales, each having one seed. It takes one year for the cone to reach maturity. When it is ready, the cone will shatter if struck. During late June through September, seeds can be gathered from under the tree and planted immediately.

Vermiculite or a similar sterile medium can be used to germinate the seeds. Place the seeds in the medium at a 45-degree angle, keeping the upper surface and outside portion of the seed up. In about seven to 10 days, the viable seeds will begin to sprout and germination should be completed within three weeks.

When the seedlings are about a month old, they can be transplanted into 1-quart containers. Use a good quality organic soil and give the tree a good feeding with any complete fertilizer such as organic 8-8-8 or a slow release type such as 18-16-12. Keep soil moist but not soggy, and locate the plants in an area with filtered, indirect sunlight. For taller and healthier trees, feed regularly at three- to four-month intervals.

Before the young plants become root-bound, they should be repotted in a larger, 1-gallon container or planted in the ground. If kept in a container, this repotting process can be continued until you think the tree has become too heavy to be moved or too large to remain contained. Keep in mind that Norfolk island pines can grow to 100 feet in height with an extensive root system. However, they can be topped every three to four years to supply a cut Christmas tree. In any case, they should never be planted too close to the house, or you might end up with Santa Claus and a Christmas tree down your chimney.

This information is supplied by the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. For more information about gardening and landscaping, contact one of our Master Gardeners at 981-5199 in Hilo or 322-4892 in Kona.

Article source:

Tips for gardening in the winter

Here are seven fun things you can do when snow and chilly temperatures make digging impossible and force us indoors.

Feed the birds

Make a batch of suet dough and you will be rewarded with a huge variety of birds at your feeders this winter. Fresh, homemade suet dough is soft, crumbly, even in texture and just right for hungry birds to wolf down. High in protein and fat, this concoction is ideal for juncos, song sparrows, wrens, bluebirds, nuthatches, cardinals and woodpeckers. They all know a good thing when they taste it and can feed it to their young when other food is scarce.

Bird Pudding recipe

» 1 cup melted lard or suet

» 1 cup peanut butter

» 2 cups quick oats

» 2 cups yellow cornmeal

» 1 cup all-purpose flour

» 1/3 cup sugar (optional)

Melt lard and peanut butter together on low, take off heat and add remaining ingredients. Spread on a cookie sheet and allow to cool in the refrigerator until the mixture is just hard enough to cut into pieces. Store in small freezer bags and use as needed.

Create a terrarium

Terrariums, or miniature eco-

systems, are decorative, easy to care for and a wonderful way for children to learn about nature. A closed terrarium can often go weeks between waterings because they recycle their moisture. Slower growing plants such as small ferns, boxwood, pilea or miniature African violets are suitable for these container gardens. Colorful berries, a smooth stone pathway, small “frogs” and tiny caps of water may be added to the landscape.

Renew a love affair with your indoor plants

Remember that your watering pattern in the summer is not the same for the winter. In most indoor environments, winter air is far drier than summer air. Using room humidifiers or growing plants above trays of water (gravel beds) may help. In this winter season, you could add supplemental light or simply move your plants closer to sunny windows.

Bring in flowers

“Bring in flowers” by collecting and framing floral botanical prints. By browsing through boxes of prints, engravings and drawings found at antique markets, art galleries and museums, you will discover the beauty of flowers all over again. While re-arranging your garden book collection on the shelves, you may find a photo or print you want to frame and give to a friend.

Get a jump on spring

Order seeds from suppliers and plant catalogs and research new sources for plants. Plan a trip to a local nursery to enjoy the early display of plants. Start seeds indoors to plant outside after the last frost. Real gardeners love to watch seeds grow in a sunny window when the snow falls gently outside.

Make one New Year’s resolution for 2017

Think about making one New Year’s Resolution to improve your yard in 2017. There is no denying that successfully dispelling the winter blues is a high priority for gardening enthusiasts. Here are some suggestions: install a water feature; add a pergola or garden arbor; plant shrubs for winter landscape such as the Christmas Holly, winterberry holly, red osier dogwood or bayberry; commit to composting; purchase a rain barrel; plant a tree; become a Master Gardener.

For additional information on Master Gardener program classes beginning Jan. 10, please contact Dr. David Lott, Nebraska Extension, West Central Research and Extension Center at 308-532-2683 or Like us on Facebook at

Article source:

Garden Plot: Plant-safe ice melting tips

We hope this bout of freezing rain doesn’t catch you unprepared, but just in case it does, here are a few tips:

1. Do not step outside quickly in the morning. Black ice is hard to see, and if you start to slide, your only hope is to pull your arms to your sides and try and protect your wrists and your head.

2. The best way to make your walkway safe is to pre-treat it, preferably with a plant and lawn safe ice-melt product. Calcium chloride is the best choice because it melts ice at very low temperatures and is probably the safest chemical choice for lawns and landscapes. To pre-treat, spread a very small amount on your walkways before the ice or freezing rain begins. Pre-treatment requires only a quarter of the amount it would take to melt ice after the fact.

3. Other good ice-melt choices are potassium chloride and magnesium chloride.

4. If all you have is rock salt (NACL), which is damaging to lawns and landscaping, use it as a pre-treatment before the freezing rain. A small amount will make the walkway safe. Try and keep it away from the edges of your lawn and landscape plants. Buy some calcium chloride or play sand for the next round of solid water.

5. If you wake up to dangerous surfaces, use whatever you have on hand, but be prepared to wait about a half hour to allow it to melt the ice and provide some traction.

6. Some of the best after-the-storm choices are play sand (like you’d buy for a child’s sandbox) and kitty litter. Both will provide good traction without any possible harm to your landscape plants. And you don’t have to wait.

WTOP is now using Facebook as our comment platform. Need help? Email us.


Follow @WTOP on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

© 2016 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

Article source: