Winter gardens should be covered, either with a tarp, mulch or a crop cover. All this will add organic matter and improve soil tillage.
Covered roots of crops can break up “plowing beds” in the soil. Roots and leaves lock the nutrients and legumes into the mix and fix nitrogen. However, cover crops grow very lush during the winter and are often 3-4 inches tall by mid-spring, especially if you’re planting grains with legumes. I generally recommend legumes like cochineal clover, Austrian winter peas, or hairy vetch in most cases. You may have to wait for the next spring’s drought before you can cover and start gardening. Gardeners also experiment with fabrics mixed with mulch and/or compost as a winter treat. This reduces weeds and allows you to manage soil moisture for early planting.
The mulch may add quite a bit of organic matter, though it can’t trap nutrients and fix nitrogen. The worms are stimulated by mulch cover and do a great job of aerating the soil profile under the mulch. The biggest advantage of mulch is that it can be pulled back in the spring and transplanted with minimal fuss.
If you ever tilled or razed your garden area in the fall, add some lime. A good application rate is 10-15# seconds per 100 square feet of vegetable garden. Lime takes about six months to fully interact with the soil, so the benefits will be ready when you start gardening in the spring. Gardens only need lime once every four years.
With the drought as it was, it may not be too late to plant a lawn but you have to do it. Most weed seed mixtures are planted at a rate of five pounds per 1,000 square feet. Add one pound of seed per week after September 15th to ensure good settling. This would also be an excellent time to fertilize your garden. Use grass products with a mixture of slow and fast-release nitrogen.
Copper is a great fungicide for fruit and berry plants. There are many commercial names commonly available and the list of diseases that slow this remedy is impressive. It is useful for apples, pears, cherries, peaches, blueberries, marion berries, boysenberries and other types. Copper should be applied before it rains and before the leaves fall.
What are those big holes?
One day, I noticed some big holes in the ground that weren’t there before. You don’t see anything coming out or going in. But this is not convenient. So, what might make these holes? There are several possibilities, two more possibilities than the others.
Rats make holes two and a half to four inches wide. Holes are generally connected to a modest tunnel system, sometimes old mole edges are used, or finished under a protective concrete slab. Rats need three things in life: food, water, and shelter. But these items do not need to be on the same property.
Since mice are active at night, you may never see them. I advise my clients to look carefully for food sources, first on your property and then on neighboring properties. The success of a rat project often involves good communication with the neighborhood. Compost piles, with fruit and vegetable waste, and bird feeders are often their menu. When the food is removed, the mice may leave on their own. If not, baiting or baiting are really the only options and you have to be very careful not to harm wildlife, humans or pets. Contact me for more information on how to do either or both of them safely.
The next possibility is ground squirrels. These squirrels live in the ground despite their ability to climb trees. But climbing trees is not generally the way they find food which includes succulent plants, fruits, seeds, insects, carrion, and other strange things. Its population has increased dramatically over the past fifteen years. They make holes that are similar in size and location as mice. You may see them, if you watch them surreptitiously, in and out of holes during the day. Their tunnels are much wider than rats, and they are known to undermine house supports and especially concrete blocks with deck pillars.
This is a local species, unlike the rat, and was common in the District of Columbia. But because they could affect crops, farmers (with the help of the Extension Bureau from the 1940s to the late 1960s) stabbed them hard and sent the population back to almost nothing. During the first fifteen years I’ve been here, I rarely see them. But they came back with a vengeance. Their main control now are wolves. For homeowners, the control measures are the same as for mice, i.e. appropriate baits and traps with appropriate safety measures.
Two other possibilities are rabbits and mountain beaver. Rabbits seem to grow and make holes, but the holes are usually hidden in a thick brush. Mountain beavers, also known as “Boomers” and they are not true beavers, are only found on properties located next to the woods.
Hornets and yellow jackets are tightly wound
In late fall, things start to fall apart for these social insects. By late November, most of the workers are dead and the nest will be destroyed by rain and wind. Nests in wall spaces of homes may, in rare cases, last until late January before the colony collapses completely, a few queens fly into the air, mate (males die after mating), and hide until next spring. You often see them in the wood pile in the winter, very large and very slow. They can also make their way into wall voids and oscillate into your rooms, warmed by home heating.
As the spring weather improves, the queens (prepared to lay eggs) begin building the nest, raising the larvae, and the cycle begins again. They do not use their old nest sites. Bumblebees participate in this cycle as do wasps, which build small leaves or mud nests under your nests. Cute, narrow-waisted wasps will return to their old positions but build new nests every year.
Therefore, if the yellow jacket’s nests are not in a place to bother you, you can leave them alone to die on their own. If there is a problem, the nests can be treated with aerosols and wasp insecticides, if you can find the nest opening and spray it directly. Treatments (aerosol spray for about five seconds) should be applied at dusk and should leave quickly after spraying. Follow all instructions on the insecticide package and do not endanger yourself by spraying from a ladder or other improper setting. Watch the nest entrance for signs of life the next morning.
If you have questions about any of these topics or other questions related to the home garden and/or ranch, please contact Chip Bubl, Oregon State University Extension Office in St. Helens at 503-397-3462 or at [email protected] To reach the Lincoln County OSU Extension Service, call 541-574-6534.
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