Couldn't squeeze everything into the Wildlife talk last week, so here are a couple of interesting tidbits.
Just when it seems like every bug is a bad bug (or the only good bug is a dead bug?), some new research comes out reminding me that there are lots of beneficials out there too. One of the most pernicious weeds we have in the East Mountains is bindweed, an exotic invasive morning glory; anathema in field crops, a terror in flower beds, there hasn't been much that could be done to defeat it. Birds plant seeds that can still germinate after 50 years (!); roots 20 feet deep laugh at herbicides; every bit of root left when digging it out--becomes a new plant. It's the cockroach of the plant world.
But now, according to Organic Gardening, hope has arrived in the form of the bindweed mite. After 14 years of testing, the mite is being distributed through a variety of programs (I'll let you know when I find it). The mite doesn't feed on native morning glories or other desirable plants. It is effective at controlling bindweed in lawns and gardens, as well as in fields.
This next is not a problem we've had at the farm, but we have had a few clients pulling their hair out over voles. These tiny rodents can do a lot of damage in orchard and garden, and can be very difficult to control. An article in The American Gardener magazine (the American Horticultural Society) made a good case for using expanded aggregates, particularly shale to keep voles out of beds. The product name is VoleBloc, and a two inch layer below the root ball effectively blocks voles. The material is used to backfill the planting hole, and 'mulches' the top too. Wonder how it works on gophers?! Got to be easier than making a basket from hardware cloth.