It's always interesting to observe lawns and gardens when the snow melts and reveals unknown surprises. I hope you didn't find too many abnormalities in your garden. I hope you did find any missing garden hoses, shovels, tricycles or other household possessions.
More often than not there are a few remembrances left by various diseases or other pests. There have been many inquiries about snow mold this year. Snow mold, as a pathogenic disease, is not serious on homeowners' lawns along the Wasatch Front. It is extremely serious on bentgrass greens and tees on golf courses.Fortunately treatment is seldom, if ever, required on bluegrass lawns. If you see large numbers of pink or gray patches as the snow melts, don't panic. Don't reach for the garden sprayer but reach for a rake instead. Rake the turf areas lightly and fertilize at the appropriate time. In almost all cases the lawn recovers nicely without additional treatment.
Were you greeted by extensive serpentine patterns in your grass? These serpentine patterns are caused by field mice. Once the snow melts, they move back into the fields or shrubs for protective cover. Mouse control, at this time, is ineffective. The obvious solution is to import cats to control the mice. Gardeners know cats are not always the best animal to have associated with your flower beds as they turn them into litter boxes. A better solution is a good rake. Fortunately the mice do not permanently damage the plant crowns, and the grass recovers without damage.
A more obvious and potentially more serious problem is the large mounds of soil exposed as the snow melts. These mounds are caused by gophers. Gophers are small burrowing rodents that cause serious landscape problems. They are more prevalent in areas where vacant fields, roadsides or other uncultivated areas provide the desired habitat.
Gopher control is frustrating! Gophers are seldom seen, so their control requires careful attention to their habitat and mode of movement. Before attempting control, determine if the gophers are active. If there are no fresh mounds, the gophers may have moved to better feeding areas, sparing you the time and expense of control.
If new mounds appear, you are faced with control choices. Many products are reported to repel gophers, but none have been totally effective under extensive testing done by wildlife services, universities and private laboratories. Gophers have from one to five litters of between five and eight offspring each year. Their tremendous reproductive capacity gives them ample opportunity to invade your garden. Gopher plants (euphorbias) are highly promoted and often sold but have not been shown by research to repel gophers.
Gophers have a number of natural enemies, including snakes, owls and hawks. Since it's difficult to import these, other approaches are necessary.
A piece of hose attached to the exhaust of a lawn mower or rototiller and inserted into gopher holes soon exposes the openings to gopher tunnels. After running the engine for a few minutes, smoke emerges from the openings. The exhaust is sometimes lethal to gophers, and you know where to look for the tunnels.
Traps are another method of eliminating gophers. Gopher traps can be purchased at many retail outlets. They are effective if reset frequently. It's a good idea to wear gloves to avoid contaminating the traps with your scent. If you don't catch anything in the traps within two days, reset the traps in new locations. These traps must be placed down in the ground so the danger to pets or children is minimal.
Other gopher-control measures include poison baits and/or fumigating devices. Use these with caution and be sure to read and follow all label directions. Baits must be placed inside the tunnels to prevent non-target species from getting to the bait. Gophers would rather eat succulent plant roots than dry poison grains so don't expect immediate results.
Ultrasonic gopher repellents and other devices are not generally effective and are not worth the money. Whirligigs and windmills add decoration to the garden and also may be effective. The intermittent vibrations caused as the wind blows is more effective than other repellent devices.
Hopefully the melting winter snow did not give too many surprises as it disappeared. Fortunately, most can be dealt with simply and effectively, and your lawn and garden will be in great shape for the coming season.
- OUTDOOR PRUNING demonstration Saturday, March 2, at 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. at Mark Redd residence, 815 Vine St., Murray.
Saturday, March 9, at 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. Location: A.B. Culley residence, 3705 S. 7200 West, Magna.
- KNOW YOUR WATER workshop on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2-4 p.m., County Government Center, 2001 S. State, Room S1007. Tests will be available for nitrates, water ph, iron, fluoride, hardness and salinity for a minimal charge of $2 per sample (all tests included). These tests are designed to be a screening for those who are interested in having their water tested.