The last days have been absolutely perfect ones to garden. A group of Master Gardeners have been spending at least two mornings a week sprucing up the landscape at Cane Creek Community Gardens at McClellan in preparation for Fall Fest, our big fall event. Between pulling weeds and spreading mulch we catch up on the news in each other's lives. Most folks think that the Master Gardeners Class is all about gardening and it is for the most part. It is, however, also about making friends. One of the comments attendees have made to me at the end of each class is that they did not know they would form such strong bonds with each other.
The Extension Office is preparing the paperwork for the 2012 class and there will be an orientation meeting in November. If you are interested in joining, please contact the Extension Office for an information packet.
Aren’t these two little ones precious? They live in my neighborhood and come through all the yards daily to checkout what there is to munch on. The one with the spots was born this year and the larger one was born last year. Our deer are so used to us they don’t run from us and actually respond to our voices. Yes, we know our local deer by heart. I love them, until I discover the begonias are missing their flowers, hostas have no leaves left, or the hydrangeas are bloomless. I want to admire these delicate creatures from afar and hope that no harm becomes them. Deer can be a menace for humans driving their cars at dusk.
You know you have deer when you find ragged edges on your ornamentals, deer droppings, or deer tracks. Deer are like goats and graze constantly. We humans keep building more houses in areas that used to be theirs, going further and further in what were wildlife habitats. Thus, we now have more and more deer in our neighborhoods. They adapt very well to land between forests and our landscapes. We have lush lawns and beautiful ornamentals which make perfect snacks.
A question I, as a master gardener, am frequently asked is how to minimize deer damage. Scare techniques like loud noises and irrigation tend not to work as the deer get used to the noise. Fencing can work but it has to be high enough that a deer can’t jump over; fencing can get expensive and can be unattractive. Deer do have preferences for what they like to eat so we can plant things that they find less attractive. Being really careful about what you plant can reduce deer damage. That won’t help what you already have. My method of choice for controlling deer damage is repellants in the form of granules or spray. It is absolutely not harmful to the plants or the deer. The one I choose, Deer Stopper, has putrefied eggs, rosemary oil, and other ingredients. It smells pretty strong when I first spray it, but the smell evaporates. The plants I keep diligently sprayed have escaped deer damage. The cue is to have a good spray program. Where there is a will there is a way – to enjoy these creatures and minimize damage. With a little effort humans and deer can live in harmony with each other.
For more information consult aces.edu (the web site for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System) and search for Publication ANR-1370
Every year, we put up 2 or 3 hummingbird feeders. My husband and I go through a lot of sugar in late summer, as he is feeding the hummingbirds and I am putting up the figs and pears from the yard. I think the little birdies get spoiled, because they will twitter and hover at the big window if the feeders are empty.
There is a lot of activity around the feeders, and fighting, although the fighting seems to have lessened the closer the time gets to migration, I guess. Going outside is interesting, with all the twittering and screeching sounds of tiny birds zooming past your head. Hummingbirds are perched on the roof, the antenna wires, the basketball goal, in the pecan tree at the side of the house. They are entertaining to watch.
Gail Russell of the Alabama Clean Water Partnership spoke to our September Master Gardener meeting. She came with a very simple message but one we can all take to heart. Each of us can do something to help keep our lakes, creeks, and rivers cleaner. It is not hard, either.
A few things to remember:
Anything that goes into our storm drains goes directly into our waterways; think before you dump.
Do not pour gasoline, car oil, or liquids from any type of machinery into the ground or the storm drains. Get rid of these products by taking them to a place which recycles them.
Maintain your car so it does not leak oil. If a car leaks oil on the street, that leaking oil is washed from the street into the storm drain and eventually into our lakes, streams, and rivers.
Do not overuse pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers; do not pour unused amounts into the ground or into the storm drains. Dispose of them properly according to label instructions. Excess is washed into our groundwater and from there into our bodies of water.
Clean up after your pet. Those little packages our pets leave behind also get washed into our storm drains and pollute our waterways.
Recycle your grass clippings and leaves; do not dispose of them by putting them into the storm drains. Those kind of products can also wash into our waterways causing nutrients to build up which are bad for the health of the water.
Maintain your septic tank. That will save you money and problems and prevent leakage into the groundwater and into our bodies of water.
Use a rain barrel. The rainwater collected is so good for your plants. You will save money on your water bill and help protect our bodies of water. If you need a rain barrel, some of the big box stores sell them. The Extension Office and the Master Gardeners also sponsor rain barrel workshops
Plant a rain garden; the plants help clean storm water runoff.
If all of us followed these few simple rules, we can do so much to protect our waterways. This will help ensure that our lakes, streams, creeks, and rivers will be places where our children and their children can swim into the future.
For more information see http://www.cleanwaterpartnership.org
For all of you who enjoying eating fresh fall and winter vegetables, now is a great time to plant your own fall garden. You can plant cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots, collards, lettuce, spinach, turnips, and other treats. Without summer's heat these all do much better in the garden and don't go to seed before their time as they can do when planted in a spring garden. It is a little too late to plant most of these crops from seed, but many of our local stores carry a wonderful variety of plants. I was at one of the big box home stores and saw lettuces in a wide range of colors. If you don't have space to put these crops into the ground, many of them perform well in container gardens. Raised bed gardens also make good homes to these crops. For more information please consult the web site for the Extension Service: ACES.EDU and look for ANR 63, Planting Guide for Home Gardening in Alabama and Gardening in Alabama ANR 47.
Growing these vegetables is a healthy and fun experience for the entire family.