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Garden Talk

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"GardenTalk", a regular feature for The Gazette, brings to you the combined experience and expertise of Holly Lake's dedicated gardeners and others. A continuing focus will be subjects of interest to anyone who has ever bought a packet of seeds or dug a hole in the ground for a plant, as well as the dedicated and sharp-eyed observers of nature. "GardenTalk" will not only inform you each issue but solicits your ideas and personal gardening experiences which you may wish to pass on to others. The hope is that "GardenTalk" will enrich us all as well as help make Holly Lake even more beautiful.
By Lucy Germany
Animals, Animals, What Can We Do?

Tree squirrels are interesting but may become pests.
Woodpeckers are pests without becoming interesting
Armadillos are pests. Period. Plus they could carry human leprosy bacteria
Pocket gophers are colonists of pests.
Skunks, rabbits, moles, buzzards, squirrels, beavers, river otters-all -from the perspective of a gardener-are pests. About the only things that don't classify as pests in our area are bluebirds and butterflies.
This information came to some thirty people in attendance at the monthly meeting of Holly Gardeners, February 21 in Holly Hall. The program was offered by Adam Henry, graduate of Sulross State University with a BS in wildlife management, now serving the Texas Wildlife Services program as a wildlife damage management biologist.
He referred to his subject as "garden pests", which implies that the humans who are subject to them are victims, thought not without retaliatory resources.
Henry's specialties are disease monitoring, educational services, technical assistance in dealing with problems, and direct assistance in resolving damage issues.
Beginning with a concern about black vultures (more familiarly known as "buzzards") he said that these birds ruin trees and are known to kill new-born calves as well as cows. They are aggressive and because their excrement is caustic, they pose a hazard to live trees in which they roost. Yet they come under the heading of migratory creatures and as such cannot be destroyed without having a US fish and wildlife permit.
At his Fort Worth base Henry, along with other biologists, answers calls for help with coyotes, hogs, bobcats, beavers and other animals within the eleven counties in which trapper services area offered. Most frequent calls for help involve skunks, rabbits, armadillos, raccoons, possums, moles and gophers.
To identify the species of a marauding animal, Henry suggests checking tracks against the known patterns of individual species, examining visible evidence such as signs of digging, burrowing or chewing, as well as studying the type of material they regularly eat.
Henry went on to offer helpful ideas on how to identify and control animal pests.
It is helpful, he said, to know what animals of each species prefer to eat-as in the case of moles, the preferred foods are earth worms, grubs, beetles, and various larvae. The fact that they eat grubs is a positive vote in their favor but that is offset by the damage they do to plants, lawns and landscaping. They may be controlled by setting out baits or by setting traps, especially those which are especially designed to function in a setting of burrows, tunnels and trails. Water creates a favorable environment for their tunnels, so Henry advises against over-watering of grass and gardens. Gophers are likewise diggers below the topsoil. They eat fleshy roots, tubers, peanuts, green plant tops and seeds. They create mounds rather than tunnels and may be captured by setting traps in the runway to the mounds. If not controlled gophers can handily wipe out a vegetable garden.
Armadillos, hard-shelled creatures, have harmful burrowing habits. They can damage driveways and sidewalks, as well as yards and gardens. Gardens can be protected by encircling garden areas with mesh fencing or chicken wire. Cage traps using over-ripe fruit or stockings filled with fishing worms or earthworms can be used to lure them into traps. The armadillo's choice of foods includes earthworms, spiders, berries, vegetables and tender roots.
Skunks must be regarded as undesirable not only for their ability to spray noxious material at will but also because they are known to carry rabies. They can be caught in leg-hold or cage traps using cat food as bait. They like to take up housekeeping under porches or houses, so securing those areas with external skirting is recommended.
Other deterrents that may work on one or more species of pests are mothballs, ammonia, sulfur in a sock-but these are effective only in closed areas such as under porches or houses.
Over-watering, particularly in garden areas that are heavily composted sets up ideal conditions for a number of burrowing and rooting creatures.
Responding to a question about beaver damage, Henry recommended circling trees in vulnerable areas with mesh wire up to four feet in height, using posts to hold wire in place.
Henry may be contacted at the Texas Wildlife Services Program office at 501 W. 10th Street, Fort Worth 76102. His telephone there is 817-978-2630 or inquiries may be directed to him via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Holly Gardeners are offering opportunities to help beautify Holly Lake Ranch through several avenues including road "islands" some of which have at one time been designated as possible beautification areas. The group has also been working on landscaping in front of Holly Hall, an ongoing project. Workers are also needed to help maintain the group's four nature walking/hiking trails. The group maintains a library of useful gardening books available for checkout. Among upcoming activities to be announced is a gathering at the Mineola Nature Preserve.