August "In The Grow" - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

August “In The Grow”

Please tell me what I can do with squirrels? I plant flowers and tulip bulbs and other bulbs. Every day when I come home from work, my bulbs are out of the ground, and my flowers are eaten down to the roots. I just don’t know what to do. Can you help me solve the problem? – Mrs. John Bielefeldt, Chicago Heights, Ill.

A. Exclusion is tricky but effective. Fencing or hardware cloth around the garden or around the individual plants while they’re getting established can reduce the damage. Bulbs can be planted in homemade hardware cloth baskets. Personally, I avoid tulips (which are a favorite of all rodents) and crocus in favor of daffodils, which are generally pest-free.

Repellents include Ropel, a spray or powder you apply to the foliage that makes it distasteful to pests or a pet in the yard! Our backyard contains a couple of large dogs. The dogs may do more damage that any squirrel could, but we almost never see a squirrel, chipmunk or groundhog in the fenced portion of our yard.

Trapping is a possibility but involves relocating or destroying the pest. Squirrels will be attracted to traps baited with fruit, nuts or peanut butter.

Often, we plant a garden so we can enjoy nature and then wish we could keep nature out! Sometimes, a goal of moderation is best. Try a mixture of the above tactics and make sure you don’t entice the squirrels into your yard. Avoid planting tulips, crocus, nuts, fruit trees or placing bird feeders in a garden that you want to be squirrel-free. You’ll still have some squirrel damage, but perhaps it will be at a more tolerable level.


Q. I would like to know how I can start persimmons from seed, if they indeed can be started that way? -Glendolyn Tomes, Underwood, Ind.

A. It is probably best to obtain budded or grafted trees from a reliable source to be sure you get the tree you want. Persimmons are dioecious, meaning each tree produces only male or female flowers. For fruiting, you want to plant female trees in larger quantity than males. For ornamental value, you may want males.

If you still want to grow your own seedlings, store the seed for 60-90

days at 50 F under moist conditions. Or plant the seed in the fall and allow it to stratify naturally in the ground over the winter. A layer of mulch is beneficial.


Q. Thank you for your response to my use of tobacco water as an effective insecticide against Japanese beetles. But here is a new one for you. I have several seeds/pits from unusually large and delicious dates that I’d like to germinate and see if I can get them to grow. (I tried this with Samoan coconuts when I was a Navy chaplain aboard the Navy’s first guided-missile ship, but they didn’t grow. I should have been smarter and brought back some already sprouted: that is when they are really good and the natives eat them.) So, I’m inquiring for information before I try to sprout them. You know, “read the instructions first!” – The Rev. Robert S. Clyde, Syracuse, Ind.

A. In commercial plantings most of the trees are female, but a few male

trees are necessary for pollination. They are easily grown from seed. Plant it one inch deep in a good seedbed.

Germination may be easy but fruit production will be trickier. Dates require heat and freedom from rain or high humidity during the period of fruit development. And, of course, they’re not hardy in our area. Check your local library for Wyman’s Gardening Encyclopedia for more information on dates.


Q. Sometime ago you had information on how to get rid of Carpenter Bees. They are getting to be a bigger and bigger problem each year for my log house. Help! Also, bagworms are getting worse. Is there an answer to these? I sure hope so. – Jean Vann, West Harrison, Ind.

A. The scope of this column is limited to garden-related issues, so I can’t be much help with your bee problem. Contact your local county extension agent for advice.

If your bagworm population is manageable, you can pick off the bags and burn them. This is most effective during the winter and early spring since it destroys the egg. If this is not possible, spray infested plants in early June with malathion. Read and follow all label instructions.

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