Natural “Pest Mammal” Control Methods

garden_rabbitWhile rabbits, gophers, skunks, voles, and raccoons may look cute and cuddly, they can all ruin your prized lawn, flower and vegetable gardens. Rabbits and raccoons will invade your vegetable gardens while gophers tunnel under your lawn, causing small mounds of dirt to appear all over your yard. Skunks dig around for grubs and end up making a mess out of your lawn while voles make meals out of vegetable gardens, bark from fruit trees, and also create tunnels under your lawn. Rather than using chemical methods to deter these animals, which can leak into the ground and subsequently contaminate soil and drinking water, use natural methods to keep these critters out of your yard and away from your garden.

Deter rabbits from enjoying your vegetable garden by planting catnip and garlic around garden and property borders, as both are repulsive to rabbits. Foxglove and monkshood are two more plants that bunnies steer clear of as they are poisonous to these rodents as well as for deer (and humans). Another option is to plant aromatic herbs such as lavender around your garden borders as the purple plant is also repellent to rabbits. Those with cats will probably find they don’t have many rabbit problems; however, if the cat always stays indoors, use urine-soaked litter around your property to keep rabbits away.

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Creating a Safe Environment for Man and Beast – Indoor Houseplant Hazards

cat_plantsPlants add beauty to our indoor environment by adding color, texture, and a touch of nature.  While it has been proven, that having plants in an indoor environment can be calming for humans it can also be fatal for our furry family members.

Both dogs and cats have a tendency to chew.  This chewing habit in nature provides much need fiber in the animal’s diet.  Certain dog breeds are bred for their natural habit of picking things up and caring them in their mouth.  This habit is reinforced through the game of “fetch.”  When it comes to this habit, dogs do not know what is safe to put their mouth on and what is not.

Cats, on the other hand, not only chew but they also scratch and rub.  Scratching is done to sharpen their claws.  The rubbing habit is a way of taking ownership of something with scent.  While on the surface these habits may look benign, they can cause accidental poisoning.

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Gardening for Wildlife Part I-How to Grow Your Own Birdseed

bird_sunflowerAs the old saying goes, you get more bees with honey than vinegar. While this saying refers to being nice to people, it can also be said about wildlife.  If you want to attract birds, you need to provide good, quality feed.   This type of feed can be expensive and a little confusing because certain birds like only certain foods.  A good general rule to follow if you want to attract songbirds is to provide sunflower seeds.

While songbirds will consume any sunflower seed, the black oilseed variety is the best.  This variety has a thin hull and a small kernel, which makes it easy to crack and carry away.

Before deciding to grow your own birdseed, one must consider the growing requirements of the sunflower.  This plant likes to be in direct sunlight and takes up quite of bit of room.  Sunflowers can create the backdrop to any flowerbed but will require staking.  They can also be planted in a block formation to create a maze or even a shady fort for kids.

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Green Kids on the Block-Creating a Family of Grassheads

grassheadsA great family project is one where there really are no rules and creating grassheads is one of those projects.  It is a cross between horticulture and fashion.

To begin the project, one must start to collect eggshell halves.  One of the best times to do this is during the Easter holiday.  The colored eggshells add a designer look to the grassheads.  Do not worry about washing out the eggshells before doing this project.  The inside of the eggshell will be covered up.  Also, begin to collect different types of egg cartons.  Different colors of Styrofoam and cardboard cartons work great for this project.

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Endless Summer…


I get a real kick out of the first day of fall weather. Everyone fawns over the crisp air, the crystal blue skies, the mums and straw this ‘n’ that for sale all over town. If I could, I would turn back the clock to June and replay summer all over again! After a double dose of summer, I might embrace fall as readily as others do.

Fortunately, just because the calendar says September doesn’t mean that you have to give up the best of summer. You can ensure an endless summer by starting at the beginning of the season to preserve summer and keep it going until it rolls around again next year.

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Green Kids on the Block: Growing Micro-Greens in a DIY Hot House

diy_hot_houseMicro-greens are easy to grow and a great addition to that special dinner that many families will be having on Valentine’s Day.  It is also a grand way of adding more hyper-local greens to your family’s diet.

To start this project first get the family together and decide what types of greens everyone in the family would like to grow.   Spinach, Bibb lettuce, mustard, kale, arugula and mesclun are all greens that can be grown in the DIY hot house.  Next, get the supplies together for the DIY hot house.  These include the following:  12-inch by 12-inch by 16-inch cardboard box, ruler, marker, scissors, roll of aluminum foil, super glue, 11-gallon clear plastic garbage bag, 1.75 mil thick, thumbtacks, bag of all-purpose soil, and a package of clothespins.

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Apartment Homesteading Creating Landless Urban Farms

3-27-09 balcony gardenApartment homesteading is the newest addition to the food security and sustainability movement of recent times.  It allows apartment dwellers to farm in an urban landscape without land or in other words creates balconies full of “landless urban farms.”

These “landless urban farms” consist of animal, insect, and plant life in a sustainable format.  The typical apartment homestead includes an assortment of crops such as tomatoes, corn, potatoes peppers, and squash to name just a few on the normal scale.  Some individuals have taken this concept a step farther and have started growing more nontraditional crops such as hops and tea on the balcony.

Animals and insects also grow on the “landless urban farm.”  These include chickens and/or rabbits and bees.  And while one may think that this small menagerie of animals would not produce much foodstuff a beehive with 2 supers alone can produce 350 pounds of honey in a season.

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Recycle Newspapers in the Garden

Newspaper MulchAlthough fewer newspapers are printed every day due to the Internet age, they still manage to accumulate in corners and basements while attracting spiders and creating a fire hazard. If you can’t bring yourself to toss them away because you are a packrat or want to save landfill space, try recycling them in the garden.

There was a time when newspaper ink was a chemical mix you would avoid putting in your garden, but today’s soy-based inks make newspapers as biodegradable as a pile of autumn leaves. The slick color ads are not recommended for the garden.

If you need to make the garden look great in a hurry, choose a day when the wind is low so the newspapers stay put. Press down those high out of control weeds by stomping on them or pushing them down with a rake. Working one section at a time, place up to ten layers of newspaper over the weeds, soaking the newspaper with water to hold it in place. Overlap the newspapers at least 6 inches to prevent the worst weeds from growing through the seams. Cover the newspapers with a 2-inch layer of mulch, hay or straw and the garden looks like you’ve been caring for it all summer. Leave a gap of a few inches around existing plants so you can easily water them. The newspaper will eventually break down, but the weeds and many of the seeds will rot away before then.

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How Chickens and Greenhouses Mix

PermacultureWhat do chickens and greenhouses have in common one may ask?  The answer is simple, this design mimics an old blueprint that is eons old and was first coined in 1978 by David Holmgren and Bill Mollison as permaculture.  From this concept the basic chicken greenhouse was formed.

The chicken greenhouse works by attaching a chicken house and nesting box to a south-facing greenhouse.  During the day the solar energy warms the greenhouse while throughout the night the chickens’ body heat and decomposing manure keeps night temperatures up.

In this type of system nothing is wasted not even the chickens’ breath.  As the chickens breathe they release CO2 into the greenhouse that in turn is taken in by the plants that through a process called photosynthesis turn it into O2.  The more CO2 that is produced the more plants grow and the happier gardeners are with their product.

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Whooshing Through Time on a Windy Day

Wind UmbrellaBattling the coarse winds is no easy feat. You feel as though you will turn into Mary Poppins at any moment and fly through the sky with your parasol steering the way. But instead of reliving this lovely Disney moment, usually what happens is the wind rips through your carefully styled hair, kicks up your skirt for all to see, and ferociously turns your umbrella inside out so it will never work again properly. Although we can’t see the air, it’s an incredible force that can either tickle your cheek or bring your house to the ground.

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the U.S. currently uses the wind to generate power for approximately 9.7 million households. In 2009 almost 10,000 megawatts (MW) were generated through new wind power projects. Although your home might not yet be powered by wind, this alternative energy is in use as much as natural gas.

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