Simple, earth-friendly ways to protect your garden

Published on Thu, Apr 10, 2008 by Doreen Trudel

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Simple, earth-friendly ways to protect your garden

By Doreen Trudel

Spring never fails to amaze.

The daily walk around a spring garden remains an adventure year after year. Garden beds change daily, sometimes from morning to night. Bulbs sprout and unfold before our eyes and perennials which disappeared last fall push their way through the mulch presenting a colorful ruff of young leaves.

The bees find the very first blossom to open and then the hummingbirds are soon to follow. Tree frogs add their voices to the chorus and a quiet garden walk on a chilly day becomes a symphony.
A spring day is a gift, a reward for putting up with the gray rain, the snow and the cold bleak days of winter. We in the Pacific Northwest are lucky, especially graced because we experience spring as a long, slow crescendo gradually building to a cacophony of summer delights.

Spring offers something for every gardener. You can plant, prune, transplant, feed, mow, mulch, pick, seed or sow. Choose the task you most enjoy. Spring is the best time of year to be a gardener.

I was recently introduced to a way of sowing tiny little seeds such as carrot, parsnip or onion seeds called fluid sowing. This method gives a boost to seeds that are small and difficult to sow evenly.

Begin by sprouting the seeds thickly on a damp paper towel, keeping them warm and moist until they germinate. When you see that roots have developed but before the leaves open rinse the sprouted seeds into a fine mesh sieve to collect them from the paper towel. Mix the seeds with some prepared wheat based wallpaper paste.

Make sure that you buy the old fashioned paste without the added fungicide. This becomes a sort of planting medium. Put the seed laden wallpaper paste into a small plastic bag, cut a hole in the corner of the bag and after making a small channel or depression in the soil simply squeeze out a neat bead of paste along the row and finish sowing as usual.

Don’t worry if the roots are upside down, the plant is young enough to right itself underground. This method mimics expensive seed strips providing added nutrients and efficient spacing within the row.

The March issue of Avant Gardener reported on an inexpensive deer deterrent for the home garden. In a recent test, hydrolized casein, a milk protein found in baby powder, was added to deer rations. The deer ate 50 times more of the untreated feed than the feed containing the casein. Continuing the study Gaultheria shallon (salal) and Thuja plicata (Western red cedar), two plants which are attractive to deer were sprayed with a sticky latex substance such as Elmer’s Glue All and then dusted with either hydrolyzed casein or baby powder.
After 20 days all of the untreated plants had been damaged, 50 percent of the plants treated with baby powder showed some damage and plants treated with hydrolyzed protein or a commercial repellent called Deer Away showed no damage at all.

Baby powder may not be totally effective but it is inexpensive and readily available.

Spraying glue and baby powder throughout the garden or even on larger trees may not be practical but it is feasible on one or two prize plants, seedlings or whips.

In my research on the subject of deer repellent I found an Illinois study that used a number of commercial products on a grove of small trees. Results were varied but the few trees hung with a single bar of Dial soap in each tree were untouched by the deer over the one month period of the test.

As every one of my apple trees were damaged by deer last year and my spring bulbs were recently nibbled my fruit trees will soon be decorated with bars of Dial soap. There is a joke in there somewhere but I think I will just leave it be.

If you would like an Ilex aquifolium in your garden but don’t have space for such a large shrub or are afraid of its invasive characteristic the Holly Society of America has a suggestion.

A new true genetic dwarf holly called ‘Rock Garden’ may be perfect for your garden. It grows to just 30 inches tall by 24 inches in width. It will produce bright red berries but as with most other hollies it needs both a male and female plant nearby. This holly is growing well in public gardens in Seattle and seems to be worth the extra effort of searching online for a supplier.

The Point Roberts Garden Club meetings are very interesting. Last month’s speaker from the Vancouver Rose Society recommended an informative rose website www.rose-works.com.

The next meeting is Thursday April 10 at 7 p.m. at the Point Roberts community center. The speaker will be Laurel Baldwin representing the Whatcom County/ WSU extension program. She will speak on weeds and invasive plants in Point Roberts.

Attendees are encouraged to bring a sample of a weed from Point Roberts for identification and possible control suggestions.

“Once in a golden hour I cast to earth a seed. Up there came a flower, the people said, a weed….” Alfred, Lord Tennyson.