JoAnne Skelly: Vagaries of spring
Each season brings its joys and its challenges. I’m excited after winter to see the delights of spring with all the blooming forsythia, flowering plums, daffodils, and other plants displaying their colors. I generally forget the spring problems until suddenly I’m seeing ground squirrels, ants and weeds. All of a sudden, I feel as if I have to hurry to catch up with the pests.
Fortunately, weeding by hand is easy when the plants are seedlings and the ground is moist and loose. It’s still tedious though, since I don’t use pre-emergent or post-emergent herbicides. I’m a wildflower enthusiast and I let things grow to see what flowers I will get. If I put down a pre-emergent herbicide, I would reduce not only weed sprouts, but also flower starts. I prefer not to use post-emergent herbicides after the weeds are growing, because I don’t like adding chemicals to the soil. Needless to say, with two and half acres, I spend a lot of time weeding, mowing or weed-eating.
In the 31 years we have lived here in Washoe Valley, I have only resorted to a full-on insecticide application for the ants once. I usually spread baby powder on their trails and nests. This acts as a desiccant, coating their bodies and limiting their ability to absorb water causing death. However, when the ants take over large areas no matter what I do and I can’t weed or prune for dread of their stinging bites, I do resort to the big guns. I hire a professional.
I’m sad to say the ground squirrels are endless. If I find a way to get them off our property, more come over from the neighboring fields, up the creek or from the golf course. They tunnel under our shop, our garage and our house. The field and shrub beds are unsafe to walk in due to squirrel tunneling. I hesitate to use a chemical bait to kill them because I worry about secondary kill to the neighbors’ dogs, cats and our local owl and raptor populations. Intellectually, I know that when bait traps are properly installed and baited correctly, supposedly there is no secondary kill. However, I found a dying barn owl once and took it to the refuge where they said it probably died from eating poisoned rodents. As a birder, I just can’t risk it. Although I may have to, to prevent further damage to our foundations.
Ah, the vagaries of spring!