Send Pests Packing

On February 14, 2021, former Garden Club co-president Marilyn Kessinger gave a wonderful presentation on pests. She described many solutions to the pest problems we may have in our home, yard, and garden, now and in the coming summer months. Here are a few of her suggestions:

To deter mice, use strong scents in areas they may inhabit or enter your home. Cotton balls may be soaked in peppermint, ammonia, cloves, hot pepper, white vinegar, or citronella to keep them away.  Commercial products which do not include pesticides include Pestblock and Tomcat, rodent-deterrent expanding foams, and Mouse Magic, a peppermint and spearmint product available in sachets or pellets. Steel wool and crumpled aluminum can also be put into crevices and small holes.

Ants can also be a nuisance in your home. They also don’t like strong smells such as cinnamon, essential oils, cayenne, black pepper, and citronella. Borax is a safe way to kill a nest of ants. A bait of 1 part borax and 3 parts sugar will attract ants who will, in turn, carry the borax back to the nest. Other recipes for this concoction include:1 tsp borax/1/2 cup honey, 1 tsp peanut butter/2 tsp borax/2 T honey.

A spray made with 1-20 drops of peppermint in a cup of water would make a good repellent and chalk and diatomaceous earth are great barriers to ants. Why not plant mint near the house foundation to deter ants?

Fruit flies that are attracted to mature fruit and vegetables can be a nuisance any time of year. Since they are attracted to vinegar, make a trap of vinegar, with a few drops of liquid soap added, in a small dish or jar lid, cover it with plastic wrap and prick a few holes in it. The flies go in and can’t get out. Or leave out an almost empty opened wine bottle to capture the party-goers.

White flies, fungus gnats, scale, and spider mites can be a real problem with houseplants. Safer brand houseplant sticky stakes will attract and kill flying insects. The larvae can be eliminated with a drench made from 1 part 3% hydrogen peroxide and 4 parts water. Natural plant derivatives neem and pyrethrin are available in stores. To make a homemade insecticidal soap simply add a few drops of vegetable oil and liquid soap to a spray bottle with one cup of warm water.

Dust mites can best be controlled by frequent vacuuming and using zippered pillow covers. Sprays with aromatics such as lavender, clove, eucalyptus, peppermint, and rosemary are also useful.

BTI is a biological control for mosquito larvae. Mosquito dunks placed in water barrels, ponds, and water features or broken up and sprinkled into the saucer under your outdoor plants and downspout extensions will help to stop the life cycle of these pests. Commercial sprays may kill pollinator bees, beneficial insects, and our darling lightning bugs.

Ticks are also offended by certain smells and plants including fleabane daisy, lemongrass, garlic lavender, cedar, rose geranium, rosemary, mint, chrysanthemum, wormwood, and marigolds.

And because mice are the major carrier of ticks, make some tick tubes by placing lint or cotton balls soaked in pyrethrin inside empty toilet paper tubes and place in areas around your yard, near brush piles.

Slugs like to party in beer, leading to their demise. You could also spray them directly with white vinegar, dust the ground with diatomaceous earth, or use slug controls with nematodes or iron phosphates. To keep slugs out of pots, try putting copper flashing or pennies all around the sides of the pot. The slugs will get a shock! Plants they don’t like are garlic, fennel, rosemary, rue, anise, and wormwood.

You can watch the full video HERE.

Garden Travel at Cherry Blossom Time

 The Tidal Basin is well known for its cherry blossoms. The virtual National Cherry Blossom Festival is March 20-April 11, 2021. There are other, less crowded places to see cherry blossoms as well and since being outdoors is a sensible way to be socially distant, perhaps you would like a little garden travel.

National Arboretum

Dumbarton Oaks

Druid Hill Park, Baltimore

Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD

Pagoda at Patterson Park, Baltimore

Williamsburg Village, Olney, MD

House Plants

Houseplants add the greenery we miss outdoors this time of year. Be sure not to overwater, but mist occasionally, and use a light to extend the daylight.


March Garden Chores

● Clean up – get an early start by cleaning the yard and garden beds, cutting back grasses, and ratty-looking foliage of perennials. Stems leftover winter may have nesting bees, so leave the stalks or lay the trimmings on the ground.
● Mulch to prevent new weeds and hold the moisture.
● Create places to step as the garden will be extremely wet.
● Seed the bald spots and fertilize your lawn, but not at the same time.
● Prune summer-blooming shrubs.
● Plant potatoes, onion sets, peas, beets, and kale.

Through the snow, life emerges. Say hello, snowdrops!