dishin' the DIRT on hit and myth landscaping

Archive for the category “native plants”

The Need For SPEED(y) Organic Weed Control

“How do I get rid of weeds in my garden?”

This is probably the most common question I get on my blog, website, and Facebook page, usually coming from someone wanting to garden organically and frustrated there’s not a fast, easy recipe for weed elimination. It’s sort of like my inability to lose a few pounds. It’s not truly an inability. I want an easy way without having to change anything. A shortcut. My problem is not the weight. I need to change my entire approach. A healthier lifestyle. Organic gardening only works when the approach is a healthier garden; not just organic plants but an organic environment, one where nature is in balance. There’s no short -or HORTcut. It’s simple, but not easy. And there will be weeds.

What are weeds anyway? One person’s weed is often another person’s flower.

Or even food.

Since I’m a wildflower fanatic and native plant lover who also tries to grow as much food as possible for us and wildlife, I look at it a bit askew.  For me, a weed’s a plant I’ve not found a use for yet that’s trying to crowd out one that I have found useful. George Washington Carver said, “A weed is a flower growing in the wrong place.” Many of our weeds have BECOME WEEDS because they are non-native, invasive species. But how do you make sure you have the plants you want in the right places? Here are 3 tips I’ve found to low-maintenance organic gardening that might help.

  • CHECK IT OUT. What and where are the weeds plaguing your garden? Use the weeds as your clue. Dogged by dollarweed ? It LOVES wet spots. Nutty from nutgrass/sedge? It’s kissing cousins to papyrus and other sedges that – like dollarweed – prefer to have wet feet.  By identifying your weed first, you should be on the right track to taming the beast.
  • CHANGE IT UP. If your weeds are moisture hogs, adding a bit of sand to improve drainage might do the trick, raising the soil level just enough to make the weeds less comfortable. If your particular genre of weed loves shade, open the canopy of the area by removing lower tree limbs. If it’s a sun lover, pile on the mulch or mow the grass higher, making it difficult to find its way to the sunshine.
  • CHOKE IT OUT. Some weeds are prolific because they can. If weeds are in your lawn, make sure your grass is fat and happy by adding composted materials and sufficient water. If they’re taking root in a flowerbed, heavy mulch (I use pine straw since I live in a pine forest) should do the trick. Having shrubs and perennials spaced at proper intervals leaves no open range for weeds. Having raised beds often alleviates weed issues, too.  I use several methods to remove weeds in beds, including old-fashioned weeding (I have a special tool for this), hot water, or vinegar – depending on where it is and the time of year. I’ll save these for another post.

Nature truly abhors a vacuum.  So the key to successful organic gardening is filling the space with what you choose, not what chooses to grow there. The other key? Tolerance for nature. It’s pretty natural, after all. And certainly organic.


Oh, deer, not tonight, please

Help! We bought a house in the suburbs that needed new landscaping, but every time I put out plants, the deer come during the night and eat them. What can I do?

Deer nibble much of the green in their paths unless your plants don't rate high on the menu.

Deer nibble much of the green in their paths unless your plants don’t rate high on the menu.

Ask folks planning a move into the countryside how they feel about nature and they’ll express devotion. A year and hundreds of landscaping dollars later, the attitude often has drastically changed. Pest control companies make their living off this fact: we like the natural world as long as it stays in our control… nature within prescribed boundaries. Termites tunneling in downed timber? Mosquitoes munched by mockingbirds? Snakes snacking on mice and rats? Wonderful! Deer munching in a serene landscape on the horizon? Lovely. When it’s OUR serene landscape where they’re munching, however, that’s a different story.

So how can we protect nature while keeping our gardens from becoming the Luann platter tonight? Deer-free zones don’t exist where deer do, but you can follow some simple steps to encourage nibbling elsewhere with PLANTS, PARAPHERNALIA, and PARABLES. This post goes over the plants. Looks for the next two deer-deterents later, same bat-time, same bat-channel. (Only those of us over a certain age will know what the heck I’m talking about, and only YOUR hairdresser knows for sure…. Yes, another oldie but goodie from ads of Christmas past!)

• PLANTS – Love fresh greens in your salad? So do deer! New growth lures deer in for the locavore smorgasbord. But there are specific plants they don’t find quite as appealing. Look to the surrounding area for ideas. What plants do deer ignore in others’ gardens or in the indigenous plantings nearby? If your yard is an undistinguishable humdrum café, deer will look around for culinary excitement.

Not only can you discourage browsing ON certain plants, but WITH certain plants. Strong herbs such as rosemary or society garlic to throw off the scent and repel deer. Native plants are also naturally more deer resistant as edging can signal b-o-r-i-n-g, and keep deer in the dark about the rest of your yard. For a list of plants to use, contact your local native plant society or Master Gardener group.

WHEN to plant WHAT

Cherie's planting season wheel

My confession that rules were blatantly disregarded when I planted shrubs during  July brought sorrowful bent heads and looks of disapproval.  And those were just from Gus the Wonder Cat…..

Gus the Wonder Cat is wondering why I'm crazy enough to plant shrubs in summer!

Gus the Wonder Cat is wondering why I’m crazy enough to plant shrubs in the heat of summer!

I can imagine what your thoughts on the subject might be.

As a designer, I often myself tempted to The Dark Side, putting FORM before FUNCTION. Someone always pays when that happens. Sometimes it’s Mrs. Skywalker. This time it’s me. I’ve been shlepping water hoses through the common area next to my house several times a week and the newly-planted beauty berry still doesn’t look, well, beautiful. If you don’t want you to fall into the same trap, use this graphic telling you when to plant what at your house.  Your plants will thank you for following the rules. And Gus will think you’re a genius.

Need to know HOW to plant trees and shrubs? Here’s a video from my friends at The National Gardening Association Wanna TRANSPLANT a shrub or tree in the next few months? Here’s how!

Understory beauty berry bush, like this variegated 'Snow Storm' variety, prefer cooler temps when planted and show distress at anything less.

DEAD ENDS take on new meaning: this variegated ‘Snow Storm’ beauty berry is making its displeasure known, dying off on the tip ends after leaving the shade cover of a nursery for the sun cover of July.

FREE FRIDAY! and Summer is NOT the time to plant

To celebrate August, the end-of- summer (since schools start ever-earlier), I’ll have a FREE FRIDAY tomorrow. Go to my author FaceBook page and pick which one of my children’s books you want and I’ll pick you. Or Gus the Wonder Cat will pick for me. IF he’s in the mood for that kind of thing. He IS a cat, after all.  If you don’t FB, just comment on this post to get your name in the hat.

River rock boulder at A&A  Stone (www.A&

Arkansas creek boulder Linda helped me find at A&A Stone. Thanks Linda!

Following an afternoon choosing boulders for my entry garden (I’ll show you the before/after soon), I distinctly heard my name called. Sensing the voice beckoned from the nearby garden center, I was compelled to stop and walk through the rows of newly arrived plant material to make certain my garden was not lacking. As any other gardener would have, I soon recognized my garden was indeed lacking and began piling necessities onto the wagon to remedy my plight.

My usual time for summer gardening is morning. And when I say “gardening” in the summer, it means making the rounds to be sure everyone is happy and healthy, yanking a few errant weeds: maintenance type chores. Theoretically, PLANTING is an autumn/winter/spring activity. However, since I do not practice what I preach, feel free to drive by and see WHY you should not put out plants in Texas’ summer, which typically lasts from April-October. Other than the desert-dwellers, my new babies are suffering tremendously. Even the true East Texas Pineywoods natives, with almost daily spritzes of hydration from the end of a hose, show a waning spirit.

I don’t blame them a bit. It is August, after all.

I’m putting together a program on WHAT TO PLANT WHEN. If you want to know the answer to that age-old question, respond to this post and I’ll send you the chart.

Living with Low Spots

After it rains, our back yard takes forever to drain. It’s so discouraging to plant things and they drown. How can we get rid of the water without flooding our neighbors?

Drainage dilemmas plague many folks, either with seasonal sinkholes where water collects after a rain or a spot that’s always spongy and nothing grows well but weeds. Now we are talking shallow depression in the yard here, not hole-big-enough-to-eat-the-house-Florida-style.

raindropsLike a leaky roof, you probably don’t even think about drainage until it rains.

Landscaping professionals may disagree on HOW to solve drainage issues, but most agree the best solution financially and physically is to work with what you’ve got. Obviously if muddy waters rage through your yard like the Mississippi at flood stage – and you’re not interested in water-front property – you might need to a more comprehensive remedy. However, if your problem is periodic or simply a nuisance, here are a few inexpensive or even FREE ideas to try.

GRADE: Lawn grass responds best to a minimum 1/4″ drop vertically for every foot horizontal distance. That grade should point AWAY from your house, meaning soil at your home’s foundation should be the highest point. (Unless you live on a mountain, but that’s another post for another day.) Why? Constantly soggy soil means constantly soggy grass which means a lawn in constant distress. Expect diseases, especially fungal infection, and the pests that follow to become the dominant feature of your landscape if the slope’s too slight.

While pleasant to view, moss on a walk-way spells D-A-N-G-E-R! Raise the walk a couple inches and backfill with sand.

While pleasant to view, moss on a walk-way spells D-A-N-G-E-R! Raise the walk a couple inches and backfill with sand.

DRAINS: A “dry river” can be installed to quickly wick water away from your low spot.

River stones, if used in a dry river, must be large enough that they won't wash away in a down-pour.

River stones, if used in a dry river, must be large enough that they won’t wash away in a down-pour.

A bit of river rock, making sure it’s headed DOWNHILL, is an easy fix. But if the stones block instead of remove water, might as well invite the neighborhood over for a  pool party next time a black cloud hovers. Water gushing  down your river?  A large boulder or clump of ornamental grass strategically located slows the flow. If the runoff is more than a dry river can handle alone, or if the area is not conducive to such a feature, consider a French drain instead of or besides. There are plenty of how-to’s online for French drains. If you hire drainage done, you might take the advice of a landscaper friend of mine when interviewing installers: “If you call in somebody to help with drainage and they don’t have a level in their truck, run ’em off!”

PLANTS: If the area is wet for a short time and not a nuisance, consider planting natives that thrive with wet feet, soaking up the extra moisture. Or how about creating a wildlife or bog garden, or even a water feature to take advantage of your problem? Check your local native plant society for a list of appropriate ones for your area.

One of my favorite plants for low spots is our native river birch, Betula nigra with its gorgeous peely bark.

One of my favorite plants for low spots is our native river birch, Betula nigra with its gorgeous peely bark.

Duel purpose, this container also holds rainwater runoff to irrigate the nearby veggie garden.

Dual purpose, this container also holds rainwater runoff to irrigate the nearby veggie garden.

RAIN BARREL: At my house, rain barrels are going in at the gutter downspouts. When I build my new porch, I’m planning the roof based on collection of rainwater so my garden is self-sustaining when irrigation limitations come back, as they surely will.

Before you head for the big guns, be sure your plumbing or irrigation isn’t leaking and you’re watering properly.  Then next time it rains, look for your low spots. Choose a remedy that will turn your problem on its head, making the area the HIGHlight of your landscape. Not so discouraging after all, is it? cc:



River stones make a long-lasting mulch that won't wash away in a down-pour.

River stones make a long-lasting mulch that won’t wash away in a down-pour.

A clean slate. Or a muddy one, anyway.

A clean slate. Or a muddy one, anyway.






This week I’ve been working with my friend Cindy Huey on the area in my front yard near the entrance. When we moved to this house a few months ago, there were two huge sago palms (which are highly toxic, by the way) and 20 shrubs in an area barely large enough to support one of the sagos. The planting was original to the house and, as usual, the builders weren’t thinking past selling the house. That’s reasonable for them, but awful for the buyers. Or for the NEXT buyers, 12 years later. Although the previous owners did a great job on maintenance, everything was planted only inches from the sidewalk. Keeping the dwarf bottlebrush and boxwoods from attacking visitors must have been a constant chore and certainly a battle I chose NOT to fight. I transplanted the bottlebrush to the side yard and gave away the boxwoods, which are not a good plant choice for our area anyway.

Since I’m a professional landscape designer, you might wonder why I might need another landscape professional to help me at my house. It’s more fun and more productive to have an outsider’s view: more fun because Cindy’s enthusiasm over plants makes working with her a blast; more productive because it’s hard to make decisions when it’s YOUR STUFF. As a plant freak myself, I know how many options I have, so how can I possibly choose just a few? Thought some of you might have this dilemma, too, so I’ll share criteria for picking just the right plants for my entry garden.

1) Does it fit? Choose plants that will not overwhelm and overtake the space when full-grown. Yes, a one-gallon shrub looks Lilliputian next to a house, but it will grow. It’s pretty important that visitors can physically enter the entry.

Native to my area, Gulf muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) creates interest all year.

Native to my area, Gulf muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) creates interest all year.

2) Does it fit? No, I’m not repeating myself. Well, I am, but I’m talking about a different kind of fit here. While the sago palms went well with the stucco of my home if I wanted a Gulf Coast vibe, my style is more California Spanish. I’ve also replaced water guzzlers for water savers, planting native and well-adapted succulents, perennials, and soft grasses and installing a Mexican beach pebble mulch. This allowed me to cap some of the irrigation. If we experience a repeat of the last 3 years’ water rationing, we’ll be ready with plants that love the heat and humidity, but don’t mind drying out periodically.

3) Does it look good? All the TIME? I enjoy putting out annuals for seasonal color. Since we don’t have a lot of big seasonal changes in South-east Texas, annual color lets me fake-it-till-it-makes-it. While we have tons of great warm season perennials and some plants that will bloom year-round in years we have no freezing weather, I enjoy my mums in fall, johnny-jump-ups in winter, daffodils for spring. Yes, all of these will probably make it all year, but I don’t want to let them go into the off-season on my time, making brown yuk the highlight of my landscape. Color pots are the answer for my front entry. By putting evergreens as the base planting, I can pop a pot into the scene and WHOLLA! seasonal interest! It also allows me to shift the pot of gross looking but still living plants to a side area and bring out the new seasonal container. (See how I do it HERE.)

Follow these 3 rules for the entry and your plant pallet dwindles down to a manageable decision. Now the backyard is a different subject all together, ’cause RULES? We don’t need no stinkin’ RULES! We’ll head to the backyard soon, so stay tuned.

Instead of filling a tall pot with soil, elevate a smaller one inside with bricks.

Instead of filling a tall pot with soil, elevate a smaller one inside with bricks.

Wild about Wildflowers, Part 1

Bluebells at Denver Botanic Gardens, where it’s hard to find the ice cream but easy to find the flower.

This week I had great fun with the Ft. Bend Master Gardeners in Rosenberg, Texas. They wanted to hear about one of my plant passions: wildflowers. (I’m sharing a list of my favorite wildflowers at the end of this post, plus a FREE BOOK for a lucky winner!)

Many Americans alive today were not around to remember when wildflowers were called “weeds.” That transformation in thought is a recent developement. (RECENT if you are an old fart, like me.) The Beautification Act of 1965, championed by then 1st lady-Lady Bird Johnson, brought much deserved appreciation for our natural beauties. (Okay, I wasn’t in school yet when LBJ was president, so maybe I’m not THAT old.)

The entry sign at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, TX.

The entry sign at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, TX. For more info on the childhood of Lady Bird Johnson, read MISS LADY BIRD’S WILDFLOWERS, by Kathi Appelt with art from Joy Fisher Hein, illustrator of my book, BLOOMIN’ TALES.

For many years, our native wildflowers were sought after as foreign favorites, proven to be hardy additions to European gardens. A prophet in his own land, right? Mrs. Johnson’s love for her Texas roots – and the attached flowers – bloomed into a determination that her fellow Americans were missing the boat. Or at least the wheelbarrow.

So what is a wildflower? “A flower not intentionally planted or seeded,” says Wikipedia. How is that different from a weed? Maybe it’s not. A new friend from Ft. Bend Master Gardeners (thanks, Vic!) says “a weed is a plant that no one has discovered a use for yet.” In my experience, a weed could be a misunderstood wildflower. It’s often a plant that happened to take hold in a spot where it’s unwanted. A wildflower in a flower bed might be okay, but that same plant in the lawn is considered a weed. Why do they seem to thrive in the lawn instead of the well-tended garden? Because most prefer a depleted soil. We take too good of care of them, in other words.

There’s some disagreement on whether a plant should be indigenous to an area to be truly considered a wildflower. Insects, animals, and birds probably prefer dining on natives over foreign plants. Most of us are leery of unknown foods, right? In my book, an INVASIVE plant is always a WEED. Intent on crowding out our native plants, gorgeous flowers lull us into a stupor as they plot to take over the world.

Weed or wildflower, here are 10 of my favorites. Next week I’ll share 10 more easy-to-grow wildflowers.

I’d also like to hear and see some of your favorite wildflowers. Share your wildflower stories and shots with me as a comment here to be in the running for a FREE copy of my children’s book BLOOMIN’ TALES, full of legends telling how some of our wildflowers got their names. And if you are in the Austin area next weekend, the illustrator -Joy Hein- and I will be signing copies on Saturday, April 27th, from 1-4 in the Wildflower Center’s bookstore.

  • fragrant aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium)
  • beauty berry (Callicarpa americana)
  • beebalm (Monarda spp.)
  • blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum)
  • bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum)
  • blue sage (Salvia farinacea) (Salvia x ‘Indigo Spires’)
  • butterfly weed (Aeslepias tuberosa)
  • cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
  • Hinkley’s columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinkleyana)
  • purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Nurturing nature(al) readers: YOU CAN GROW THAT!

My dad, Dr. Bob Foster, with me at 18 months old.

Watching the nightly news is painful, isn’t it?  I hate it in the same way I hate coming up on a bad car-wreck: I look but I always wish I hadn’t.  From the newscasts, it would seem playing outside is one of the most dangerous things a kid can do. As a child of the 60’s, I played outside a little bit every day and most of the day during summer. Nature called each morning. (Didn’t mean it THAT way….. I was young and had camel bladder!)

There were things to do and my brothers and I answered by doing them. We were in trees, making mud pies, pretending to be on safari (remember “Daktari” on t.v.?),riding bikes through paths or making our own. Imagination and room to roam were in ample supply.  We had a world to conquer, after all.  Either that, or my mom locked the screen door and told us not to return till lunch.  Regardless, I believe playing outside is one of the major influences in my life.  I think it made me a lover of nature.

Each month, dozens of landscaping professionals gather virtually during the 1st week – usually on the 4th – to share their expertise for an online event called YOU CAN GROW THAT! Although my  contribution typically emerges from gardening questions coming to my blog or from my landscaping clients, this month’s entry celebrates my new children’s book – BLOOMIN’ TALES.  I’ve been designing learning gardens and Schoolyard Habitats for the past twenty years.  I found using wildflower legends helps students and their teachers remember names of the plants in their new garden.  Often the stories also tell about habitat and pollinators necessary for the plants to thrive.  Generations handed down these legends, a tool for their children who were to become stewards of the land after them.

Recently, my friend Linda Lehmusvirta – who also happens to be the producer of Central Texas Gardener on PBS, – asked me to stop by and introduce her audience to some of my favorite BLOOMIN’ TALES and talk about my passion for wildflowers and their stories.  It was fun (and even a little intimidating) to walk into the old AUSTIN CITY LIMITS studio, but the CTG crew soon had me talking about growing up with plants.  Central Texas Gardener on PBS, Austin

So where will children’s love of nature come from if they can’t experience what I did?  While they are a poor substitute, t.v. and books do offer hope for the disaster MY generation created, dropping the baton somehow, leaving our world defenseless except for some slogans and cute animal pictures begging us to save things “before it’s too late.”  I hate to be dramatic, but in my view, if we don’t intentionally emerge kids early in nature, making it a NATURAL part of growing up for them to play outside, it might already be too late.

A special TEXAS edition of BLOOMIN’ TALES is available, too.

By the way, I’ll be giving away a copy of BLOOMIN’ TALES on my website – – on Friday!

GARDEN DESIGN: Drawing Your Plan

Got a great view? Play it up. A not-so-great view? Put a mirror up instead!

Now that you have a BASIC LANDSCAPE LAYOUT graphed out from last time, you should know where permanent features and plants will be staying.  Time to make final decisions on what goes where for your new do/redo.

HIT: if you know the why, where, and what, PICKING PLANTS should be fun instead of overwhelming

1)  Think about the why of it to determine the where.  Clients tell me they want their summer kitchen in gazebo at the back of the property…..WHY?  Schlepping out to the back forty every time you want burgers isn’t practical. Locate things so they are the most convenient and work for you, not you for them.

2) Pick the right tool for the task.  Is the view from the guy behind you’s 2nd story gameroom YOUR family room?  Shade trees at the fence may seem the best solution, but how long it will take them to grow?  A pergola covered with fast-growing evergreen vines above the windows may be just right to block the view.  Make notes on your decisions.

3) Will it work?  Lay out your proposed new beds, patios, etc. not only on paper, but in your landscape.  Use a water hose, strings, or spray paint to mark things out and live with your new design for a few weeks, if possible.  Bed edges shouldn’t look like a drunk guy designed it – even if he DID.  Lawn areas need to be trial-run to ensure the mower will make the curves okay, too.  How about watering?  Can you get a wheel barrow to an area easily?  Think about maintenance as well as use.

Make your plan simple and easy to read.

Move all this onto a clean piece of graph paper that will be your final plan. Note existing materials and the new stuff, including sizes of items – including plants’ names, or at least sizes and types (15′ TREE vs. 3′ EVERGREEN SHRUB) –  even if you don’t know WHICH plants yet. To make wise plant choices, start by showing your plan to your local independent nurseryman. If you have a plant list or photos, those should go, too. (Remember, you taped those samples to the edge of your bubble diagram a few weeks ago?)  Contact your county extension office and Master Gardener groups. They’ll have lists of appropriate plant materials for your area and often give free classes. (By FREE I mean your tax dollars already paid for them!) I’m also a fan of native plant societies found in most states. They’re a great resource, with online plant lists and often with free classes and plant sales. Garden clubs, the Herb Society, community colleges, and many other groups offer free or inexpensive horticultural education classes, too.  And libraries and independent bookstores often have books and magazines featuring plants perfect for your area.

The best way to get a beautiful landscape? PLAN for it!

Okay, don’t get frustrated.  I’ve spent the last 20+ years doing this, so don’t expect to become an expert overnight.  You don’t have to know it all; you just have to know where to get help. And one of the spots you can get it is HERE.  Just send me a note and I’ll try to direct you down the right path.  Or even help you create the right one!

“I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes…”

“Any natural organic way to keep snakes out of the yard? I am not opposed to killing them, but would rather annoy them so much they go off and bother someone else.  Thinking specifically copperheads and garden snakes.”

This year’s record drought in some areas of the country and record rains in others are bringing varmints that used to live in holes out where we can see them.  Many folks do not like this.  I actually want these creatures in my yard since they are voracious eaters of other things I prefer not to have there.  I don’t even mind SEEING them.  It is NOT unreasonable, in my opinion, that I don’t want an up close and personal relationship.  At six years old, a spider bite nearly rotted two fingers off my right hand.  And even God tells us not to like snakes, doesn’t he?   I have a slinky friend that lives in my yard.  He’s not my pet and doesn’t have a name, nor does he “sit” or “roll-over.”  I’ve found him quite trainable, though.  He responds appropriately when I say, “get-the-heck-away-from-me-if-you-wanna-stay-alive!”

Non-poinsonous Gulf Coast ribbon snake in my yard

Unlike Joan in the  Hormel commercial who doesn’t shave under her arms and keeps a goat on the roof, my dear friend Diane Cabiness is a real naturalist.  In fact, she’s a certified Texas Master Naturalist and the one I go to when I have a native plant question. She’s also the number on my cell phone’s speed dial for critter queries.  She rehabilitates injured snakes and spiders and then takes them to visit school children, which to me is cruel but the kids LOVE ’em.  Nerds get a chance to be cool kids when they let things crawl around on them without screaming or peeing their pants.  Diane’s cool even without her reptile and arachnid collection.  She has an authentic love of creatures, which is not the vibe I get from hairy goat gal who appears lazy instead of an embracer of nature. So I asked Diane what constitutes a yard where snakes would not be happy.  Her answer?  1)  no food, 2) no water, and 3) no cover.  That simple.  Since snakes snack on small mammals like mice, getting rid of wood stacks, brush piles and similar vermin friendly habitats could remove their food source.  (Those are favorite spider hang-outs, too, by the way.)  In dry conditions, use less water and make sure you don’t have leaky outside faucets.  If you have shrubs, ground-cover, or a thick mulch (more than 3″) around the house, you’ve also inadvertently created a cozy snake spot.  

HIT: snakes and spiders are free, NATURAL pest controls for the garden

MYTH: effective snakes REPELLANT, or snake OIL?

As far as repellants, moth balls and sulphur/sulfur – often the ingredients in products touted as SNAKE REPELLANTS – might make the small mammals that are known snake treats scarse, but are ineffective for keeping away snakes themselves.  Their awful scent more likely keeps YOU out of your garden so you don’t see the snakes there.  Beware using both, which are dangerous to mammals.  (“Mustard gas” is made with sulphur.)   I’ve planted pungent herbs such as rosemary and onions surrounding my roses and veggies where I’m puttering around a lot, often with bare hands.  Mint under the hose bibs, too.  The deer are less likely to browse where these plants are present and I’d heard snakes don’t like them either.  I’ve not seen any snakes anywhere near the rosemary….yet.

Keep snakes at bay with a SNAKE-PROOF FENCE....

SNAKE-PROOF FENCING can be installed where small children or pets need to be protected, but cost prohibitive in a large area.  Check out the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management for more information.

While death is natural and organic, the North Carolina Extension Service lumps things into “lethal” and “non-lethal” when it comes to snake control and, like my friend Diane, prefer the non-lethal controls.  (Not sure “decapitation-by-hoe” is considered a death by natural cause, anyway.) They also amen Diane’s suggestions about what works best to keep snakes at bay near homes.  Then they talk about snakes IN the home.

Close cracks and crevices in buildings and around pipes
and utility connections with 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth,
mortar or sheet metal. All doors and windows should have
tightly fitting screens.  
Thanks, guys.  I’d never even thought about them coming inside…..till now!

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