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Frustrating Spider Mites – They’re A Problem, So Let’s Solve It!

When you’re cultivating a garden, you must be on the lookout for the various pests which can cause trouble. While there is a seemingly endless supply of hazardous pests to look out for, some are much more prevalent than others.

One of the most common pests are spider mites. These tiny arachnids can infest most types of plants, including vegetables, fruits, and flowers. Among the vegetable plants they can ruin are corn, tomatoes, peppers, and more. They’re a major threat to any gardener who is planning on growing food in their garden.

They can be found on the underside of the leaves, eating the plant sap. The affected plant will lose energy, and brown spots and mottling will appear on the leaves. Fruits will display russeting. As the infestation grows, leaves become discolored, appearing bronze or yellow. Eventually, leaves can be scorched and major damage will be done, as the spider mites rapidly reproduce.

A significant population of mites will weave webs. These are nothing like normal spiderwebs, rather, they appear as gauze-like, thin blankets. This is one of the surest signs that an infestation is in full swing. These webs are used for various functions. Most species of spider mites prefer dry conditions, and their webbing wicks away water. Spider mites also lay numerous eggs, and the webs help secure them. The fact that their population can increase so quickly is another reason why they are so hazardous to plants. Without predators, spider mites will reproduce until the host plant is eventually killed off. Another purpose of the webs they weave is for transportation – they can move to new leaves and new host plants.

The fact that spider mites can travel is important to consider. If one plant is affected, then any plants within the vicinity are at risk. The damage can quickly spread in a garden setting. That’s why it’s best to remove any infested plants and treat them separately. If you remove all the plants that are infested, you can save a lot of trouble in maintaining the rest of your garden. Also, make sure to handle the infested plants separately, with different gloves, tools, and even different clothes. Anything you can do to prevent spreading spider mites is useful. If you have an indoor garden, make sure that it has no indirect contact with outside plants.

You must be thorough and consistent in treating spider mites. Even if you wipe out one generation, the small, round, sticky eggs are very difficult to get to. You must do follow-up treatments every few weeks or so to completely get rid of them. Otherwise, the resilient eggs will hatch and their numbers will rebound.

There are many different options for treating spider mite infestations without harming your plants. There are special sprays called miticides which are great tools to kill spider mites and keep a healthy garden. You can release natural predators that will consume mites and eggs. There are other methods, but whichever you choose, it’s important to treat thoroughly.

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How to Keep Squirrels Out of Your Texas Garden

Texas gardeners are blessed with two seasons each year to harvest home-grown tomatoes. Texas squirrels are blessed with two seasons each year to take a great big bite out of home-grown tomatoes before Texas gardeners can harvest them.

Squirrels feast on pecans, fallen fruit, squash, cucumbers, and even watermelons and cantaloupes. Rummaging through your garden beds, they may dine on bulbs that are a lot fresher and tastier than the nuts they squirreled away the year before. They can take over feeders you leave out for birds and other wildlife, and they don’t reward you for your sacrifices by becoming good pets.

If you have not had a lot of interactions with squirrels, there is a fundamental fact of the relationship between the squirrel and the admiring, animal-loving outdoor Texas gardener: Squirrels bite. That furry friend from the trees above will take bite out of your finger when given a chance. And it might even dine on your smaller pet chickens and eat their eggs as if it thought it was a raccoon or a skunk.

If you want to win the battle for garden supremacy with Texas squirrels, you are going to need to plan ahead. Here are 10 tips to taking action to help squirrels find a better habitat than your garden in Texas.

1. Confuse the critters. Gray (although not red) squirrels have a keen memory for landmarks. If you want to direct squirrels out of your garden with a minimum of fuss, move any shiny objects to a different location in your yard or garden every three or four months.

2. Install squirrel baffles on lines and wires leading to your home or garden. When a squirrel shimmies across a line, it grasps the top of the line with its front paws and the bottom of the line with its back paws. Putting a roller on the line makes it impossible for the squirrel to proceed.

3. Call out the hounds. Although this strategy may not work if your hound is a chihuahua, allowing your dog to patrol your yard or garden once a day or so, especially in the middle of the day, may keep squirrels off your property.

4. Get rid of squirrels humanely with a Havahart Two-Door Squirrel Trap. Just be sure it is not more than 5-1/2 inches high, so if you happen to trap a skunk, it can’t raise its tail to spray you.

5. Keep squirrels out your attic with ultrasound. Electronic noise machines generate high-pitched sound at 56,000 Hz. This is too high for humans to hear but drives squirrels batty. It’s a lot more useful for keeping squirrels out than it is for getting squirrels out. Once a mother squirrel has made her nest in her attic so she can raise her 4 to 10 babies, you are not going to be able to get rid of her with nuisance devices.

6. Make sure branches are cut within 15 feet of your roof. A squirrel can jump that far from a tree limb to the roof of your house, and then gnaw its way inside.

7. Dig mesh wire around valuable garden beds to a depth of 15 inches, with at least a three inch margin above the ground. This will deter both squirrels and, if you live in the Panhandle or East Texas, also gophers.

8. Place mothballs in the corners of the attic, where mother squirrels like to build their nests. Fumes from the mothballs make squirrels woozy so they want to leave. Be forewarned that the fumes can have a similar effect on people.

9. Recycle kitty litter underneath bushes or thicket at the edges of your property. Since cats sometimes eat squirrels, they will steer away from the odor of used kitty litter.

10. Shut the garage door at night. Squirrels sometimes find their way under the hood of your car or truck. You’ll make an unwelcome squirrel tartar should the squirrel get caught in your radiator fan or alternator belt, and a single broken wire in your vehicle’s electrical harness can result in more than $1000 in auto repairs.

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Blackberrys Planted – Apache and Araphao

Today I planted my Apache and Arapaho Erect blackberry cells from Stark Bros (3 of each).

There are both thornless varieties, and with any luck I will get an extended harvest from having two different breeds. I have planted them in a row of 6, with about 2 feet between each seedling, in the front garden by the approach to my door. This is not the sunniest place I have available, but I am hoping it gets enough sunlight to keep these guys healthy.

The Apache, in the foreground in this image, are looking very healthy, lots of nice green looking leaves, at the time of planting.
Apache in the Foreground, Arapaho in the Background, May 06, 07
In this image, with the Arapaho in the foreground, you can see they are a lot smaller.  All three of them had some yellow leaves that were nearly dead which I removed (hopefully that was a good idea!)
Arapaho in the Foreground, Apache in the Background, May 06, 07

When I was digging the holes for this I was pleased to come across Earthworms in most of them.  I haven’t done anything to this soil myself , but the landscape firm my subdivision uses does mulch it every year.  While it was some rather heavy clay under the mulch, at least it is fertile enough supporting the basic soil critters.

My long term hope is here is that blackberries will fill in to make somewhat of a hedge, roughly 10 feet long.  I’m not entirely sure that the landscapers won’t interfere with this (assuming I can keep them alive!), but I have my fingers crossed.

You will notice the mysterious grass the landscapers have planted, scattered around my planting area. I am going to leave them there for now, but if the look to be taking over I will remove them.

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Blueberry Bushes Planted

Last night I finally got around to planting the two Blueberry bushes I have had parked in a box in the house for a few days.

Both plants are ‘Rabbiteye’ varieties…one is of type Tifblue and one of type Climax.  The theory is that having more than one variety of Blueberry improves the yield, I shall see how that pans out.

As you can see, there is not much to them right now, they arrived as sticks with a root.  Hopefully I will see some signs of vegetation soon.
My Blueberries safely in their pots
Say a prayer for the Japanese Boxwood lying on the grass in the background…he gave his life so that the Blueberry could have a home:)