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Rabbits are cute, gentle and alert. They also can take out your vegetable garden in one night.

Most gardeners tolerate an occasional pest but having creatures decimate yards and gardens makes their blood boil … in some, it brings on the killer instinct! Most pests are just opportunists. If you supply the food, they will come! I remember a neighbor commenting that she had rats at her feeder. She felt it was because she was close to a creek, which was true. I know my suggestion that she take in her feeders for the season was not what she wanted to hear, but it was the most obvious solution. Animals will set up house nearby if they have a reliable source of food, water and shelter.

Moles: I’ve worked hard this Spring to rid my lawn and gardens of moles. I have no problem with them eating grubs who cause their own damage; it was the lawn damage from the tunnels that is the issue! Logically, the moles are after the grubs, so, get rid of that food source. I thought I could use BT-Milky Spore but my horticulturist brother said I needed to try something more aggressive. So, I have applied grub killer to my lawn.

Tunnels in the lawn are gone. (Yeah!) I have also applied a product with castor oil in stages to my lawn and garden beds and that seems to have taken care of the problem. (I miss my cat.) By the way, using poisons can have repercussions down the road, especially if you have pets. (Both times I have had a mole problem coincided with my neighbors putting in new sod which was watered daily: moisture + grubs = moles!) I plan on using Milky Spore in the late summer when the grubs are feeding to get a head start on next spring.

Rabbits: Bunnies are cute, gentle, and alert. They also can take out your vegetable garden in one night! Our neighborhood is feeling the effects of progress. New subdivisions and construction have driven native fauna to our area. Normally, you can put up a few barriers like bird netting and cages or if you are able- try a fence (be sure to put the fencing below ground 6-12 inches).

I decided that I would let the ground rest this year…sorry, bunnies! I have one tomato plant in the ground surrounded by marigolds and basil — which is already eaten — and one cucumber plant in a container. My thought is that if I don’t have it, they won’t come! These animals, I’m sure, have a route of edibles and my garden rated a stop.

I’m buying fresh fruit and vegetables at the Farmer’s Market this year which makes for a fun Saturday morning! Hopefully, the rabbit population will disperse. Note: the rabbits also eat on my ornamentals, but the horrid smelling and tasting sprays and wire fencing that I use for deer seems to work for the rabbits.

Chipmunks: Chipmunks dig in gardens and containers. I have taken in all my bird feeders for the season except for the hummingbird feeder, put chicken wire on top of containers with mulch to hide it and put castor oil granules down their holes (hot peppers products don’t work on them). Because they dart around so much, it looks like there are a dozen or so around, but usually there are 6-10 per acre.

They can be trapped. Set up a mouse trap with peanut butter and put it in a shoe box with a small hole on the side, put a rock on top to keep it in place (works for voles, also). Not into killing...well, a couple of years ago I had quite a few chipmunks digging in all my gardens and containers and feeding in my bird feeder (they could leap across, get in the cage feeder and stuff their cheeks with my red-hot seeds) …nature sent a rat snake to my rescue; the chipmunks disappeared. This year, Chip and Dale are back. Snake should be back shortly! Meanwhile, I’ll try fake snakes; don’t tell the chipmunks!

Ground Hog: As far as I know, he lives under my neighbor’s junipers and likes hibiscus! Actually, there few “solutions” that work. Most of the Master Gardeners that I poled suggested traps. If you have a real problem then I suggest you watch a video that walks you thru how to trap or hire a pest control company. My woodchuck is a little shy — only saw him twice in 6 months. And to be honest, he might not be the hibiscus culprit!

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Katie Van Hiel has been a UGA Master Gardener Extension Volunteer of Cherokee County for 14 years. For more information or questions, contact the Cherokee County Extension Office at 770-721-7803 or for upcoming seminars follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cherokeemastergardeners or on our website at cherokeemastergardeners.com.

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