We all love animals but sometimes they go where we don’t want them to or damage our landscapes and gardens. They can chew, eat, scratch, and damage plants throughout the year. When animals get hungry, they may not spare much. Protecting your plant investment is about protecting them from extensive damage that will severely stress or kill your plant. If you end up with a few bites are scratches, luckily your plants will be fine and will heal. Very rarely do you see an unscathed plant in nature. They are tough and want to survive.
There are animal and human safe products available to repel mice, squirrels, voles, moles, raccoons, deer, rabbits…pretty much any animal you may encounter in MN.
First we will look at what animal damage looks like so you know what you’re dealing with if you see it.
What does animal damage look like?
The two most common animals that damage our plants are deer and small rodents like rabbits and voles. Deer will rub against the bark and leave gashes (see main post image). They will even chew off the top of shrub branches.
Rodent damage will have cleaner cuts. Rabbits can chew down into the cambium layer of shrubs and trees. The cambium layer is where water and nutrients are taken up. If the damage to the cambium layer goes around the entire branch or trunk, it will kill the plant. Voles can eat the roots of plants, bark, and dig tunnels that wreck lawn grass.
It’s important to reapply repellents as directed and after heavy snowfall. Make sure rabbits can’t get above the tree guards to nibble on the bark higher up the tree.
Various sprays and pelleted product contain scents and tastes that the animals are repelled by. The products contain all natural ingredients. They could contain clove oil, cayenne, peppermint oil, spearmint oil, putrefied egg, and possibly others. All of them are safe to use around your home and gardens.
Unfortunately, if animals are hungry enough, which can happen during harsh winters, they will eat despite any offending smells that typically keep them away.
Animals can also get used to certain stinky smells. Alternate products that contain different ingredients to avoid them becoming used to the smell. Repellents will also need to be reapplied frequently and the frequency depends on the product instructions and weather.
Physical Barriers May Be the Best Bet in Extreme Cases
The use of physical barriers may be the best method in extreme and harsh winters or you have an abundant population of animals.
One common physical protection is a white plastic tree guard. They have two benefits. One is to prevent sun scald and frost cracks and the other is to protect tree bark from deer and rabbit damage. This is a great physical barrier to use every winter especially on young trees that have thin tender bark. There are also mesh plastic tree guards to put around tree trunks that can be used year-round as they provide adequate air flow around the trunk. Those will not prevent winter weather damage.
If it seems like deer and rabbits have already made your yard into a safe spot, you may have to start using repellents in combination with physical barriers on the perimeters of your yard to teach them it isn’t a good spot to feed and make a home.
What To Do After the Damage Is Done
As mentioned above, if rabbits or any animal chews around the cambium layer of a tree or shrub, the shrub branch or tree will die. All is not lost if you have still have part of the cambium layer.
In early spring you can prune off the branches of the shrubs that are dead. You can wait to see if leaves bud out before any pruning as well. If it doesn’t bud, it’ll be time to prune it off. If they didn’t damage all the branches, the shrub will survive. It may take a couple years to fill back in depending on the shrub and you may need to do selective pruning to reshape it.
In the case of a tree damage around the entire trunk, see if it leafs out in the spring and if it doesn’t, it is most likely dead or will die.
If you have an animal eat your herbaceous perennials in the early spring, they can recover if they didn’t eat them all the way to the ground. Even if they did, it still may survive if it’s in it’s active growing period and has a well-established root system. Another reason to make sure you properly water your new plants because the healthier they are, the more stress they can endure and survive.
Repel Mice and other Rodents from Nesting
You may have a barn, camper, boat, wood piles, sheds, decks etc. that you want to keep little critters like mice away during the winter and summer. There are repellents like Mouse Magic and Rat Magic that are safe to use around children and pets and won’t harm rodents or anything that eats them like some poisons do. They smell nice as well!
If you distribute the packs or granules around the areas that they may want to nest, along wall edges, and where they may enter, it should repel them away from those areas. If you have a lot of rodents, you may need to use more.
Rat Magic has a few more ingredients in it to help repel squirrels and chipmunks as well. Try sprinkling it around your garden if you have them digging up your bulbs or creating holes for their food stash.
Digging Deeper – Late Spring Gardening
“What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.”
– Gertrude Jekyll, On Gardening
This post is about late spring/early summer gardening tips and things to look for that may be showing up soon in your garden.
Don’t forget water soluble fertilizers for container plants. Container plants are in a potting soil that do not contain enough nutrients for all season. Depending on the plant, you will need to add fertilizer to the water or use a slow release fertilize like Osmocote. Follow directions of product and individual plant needs for fertilization. Top dressing containers with compost can also be done to add some nutrients.
Boost for New & Established Plants
Most in-ground soils will benefit from adding organic material like compost and a starting fertilizer like Biotone Starter before planting or Plant Tone after planting. Top dressing the established perennials/shrubs with compost in the spring will give them an extra boost of nutrients. Plants like butterfly bush, delphinium, and clematis like if you put a mound of compost around their root ball.
Newly planted plants in the ground need deep watering so their roots reach down and establish themselves before winter and reduces stress on the plants. Water deeply a couple times a week. If it rains a little (pay attention to how many inches you get with a rain gauge), you can water around your new plants a little more to get water deep into the soil. It helps you conserve water and save time watering. 1″ of water per week is the recommended amount of water. Pay attention to the soil and if it is wet looking, hold off for another day. Best method is to stick your finger in the soil and if it’s dry a couple inches down, it’s time to water.
Remove weeds now while they are small, as they grow quickly. Weeding is easy when soil is damp since it’s easier to pull the whole plant including the roots. Be careful not to walk on soil around your plants to avoid compaction of the soil.
Prevent Fungal Diseases
With rain and warming weather you need to be proactive about fungal diseases. It’s best to prevent it, instead of treating it because once it starts, you can’t get rid of it completely. Treat your plants that have a higher chance of fungal issues with a fungicide before you see signs of it. For example, tomatoes usually get blight so best to treat with Bonide Revitalize or Copper Fungicide before it starts. Make sure to water your plants at the base and water in the morning when possible so the water can dry before it cools off at night. Mulch around your plants as well to help prevent fungus from the soil splashing on your plants.
Insect damage is going to start. Keep an eye on your plants for damage to their foliage. It’s important to remember, a little bit of insect damage is not bad and if you see an insect, it doesn’t mean they are bad. We need to move passed the thought that bugs are icky and nuisance. There are very important insects that are good for the garden and actually improve plant health.
Look for these invasive species instead:
Japanese Beetles: Metallic looking green/bronze beetles flying or munching on landscape plants. They love roses, hollyhock, cherry trees, plums, grapes, blackberries, and linden trees. They can be found snacking on other plants as well. Read more about them here. Incorporate plants that repel Japanese beetles such as catnip, chives, garlic, nasturtium, and white geranium around your susceptible plants. Jumping Worms: Although we haven’t had any recordings of jumping worms in our area, these can be very detrimental to lawns and gardens. There are sightings of these worms in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area so if you are doing any transplanting of plants from that area, purchases of mulches and soils, or any plant swap around our area. Read more about them here so you can know what to do to avoid them or if you see them, how to alert the U of MN Garden Extension. There are no proven ways to eradicate these worms yet.
Getting rid of insects isn’t always easy and great care should be taken if you choose to spray with insecticides, even ones labeled organic. It’s still an insecticide made to kill insects.
*Quick side note about fungus since we have been having cool springs the last couple years. With cool/wet weather you may encounter anthracnose on your plants. If you are seeing brown spots on trees and shrubs early in the spring it may be this.
Shamrock Plants – Luck’o the Irish!
This post is dedicated to the lucky Shamrock Plant! The official plant of St. Patrick’s Day!
Let’s start with its scientific name, Oxalis regnellii. These plants are part of the wood sorrel family, Oxalis, and you can even see other cultivars in the wild that are hardy in MN. For example, Oxalis stricta (Yellow Wood Sorrel) is a native wildflower. They look very similar to Trifolium repensL., the White Clover, which is the true shamrock plant. White Clover is a beneficial pollinator plant and soil nitrogen fixing plant, as well as ornamental interest with its cute blooms.
The ornamental Shamrock Plant you see blooming in late winter in garden centers is known as the false shamrock because of the similarities of the three heart-shaped leaflets of clover, it’s tiny colorful blooms, and it being a perfect plant for St. Patrick’s Day!
Oxalis typically grow to around 6″ tall and can grow quickly. The leaves will open and close according to the light throughout the day, called nyctinastic movement. The leaf colors vary between cultivars and typically the burgundy and green varieties are seen in garden centers.
Another plant you will see often is Oxalis tetraphylla, the Iron Cross (Good Luck Plant). These plants have four leaflets, that are green with a dark purple blotch at the center. When you can’t find a four-leaf clover in the wild, just get yourself a whole plant with four leaflets!
How to Grow Oxalis
The Oxalis plant grows from rhizomes ( like a bulb ) in the soil. A big difference between these and other houseplants is that it can go dormant in the summer. Other ways that may promote dormancy is if the soil is dried out too many times, the inside temperature gets too cold, or it doesn’t receive enough sunlight. We will cover dormant care after the basic care of oxalis.
After you pick out your Shamrock Plant and bring it home, put it in bright indirect light. It can take full bright light during the winter months in the morning. The bright light will promote more blooms. Speaking of blooms, these plants are known to bloom on and off all winter and one of the easiest plants to bloom! Too dark and your plant may not bloom. It may also go into dormancy.
The soil of your plant should be lightly moist at all times. You can let the top of the soil dry before watering. Frequency will depend on the humidity of your home, size of the plant, and container it’s in. If you let it go completely dry multiple times it may signal to the plant that it needs to go into dormancy. If you water it again after it goes completely dry and the foliage keeps dying back, let it go into dormancy to avoid rotting the rhizomes.
As stated above, your plant may go into dormancy and is likely at some point during its life. If the rhizomes are not soft and squishy, an indication of over-watering, your plant is just taking a rest. Dormancy can last a few weeks to a few months depending on the environment and variety.
Clean up the dried up foliage and stop watering and put the pot in a cool dark place. The plant will naturally want to come out of dormancy when it’s ready. If it’s been dormant all summer or for a few months, you can bring it out to the light, give it a little water and it should promote new growth! Some people have been successful by letting it go dormant only a few weeks and then bringing it back out to the bright light.
Be sure the soil doesn’t get soggy before the foliage starts popping out because it could rot the rhizomes. You should start seeing new foliage in no time with the sunlight and light watering!
Now that you know more about the Shamrock Plant we hope you give it a try! It’s a fun plant to gift for a little luck during the late winter and for St. Patrick’s Day!
Annual Flower & Plant Care
Annual Flower & Plant Care
July 25, 2019 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm
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Event Phone: 507-388-4877
Get detailed care instructions for multiple varieties of annual flowers and plants!