Editor’s note: Kelly R. Jackson’s Garden Corner column has a different format. He takes questions called into his phone recently at the Christian County Extension Office and answers them in the column.
Question. I’m hearing mice in my attic. What should I do for control?
Answer. Cooler fall temperatures trigger many animals to seek shelter and mice are no exception. Openings around pipes, vents and doors give mice access to your home and attic spaces. Control works best by combining several approaches including sanitation, exclusion and lethal controls.
A mouse can squeeze through a hole the size of a pencil diameter, therefore sealing up entry holes ¼ inch or larger is the first step. Inspect and repair vent screens and install door sweeps if lacking. Don’t give mice a reason to come to your home.
Keep exterior trash cans away from entrances and use tight fitting lids. Remove any debris or stored materials from the building exterior to reduce hiding areas. Traditional snap-traps can be baited with peanut butter, other food items and even cotton string. Place the traps along rodent runways to be most effective with the trigger side of the trap toward the wall.
Rodenticides are also effective and work to control mice as either an anticoagulant which causes internal bleeding or by affecting the nervous system. These products should be used with care as they are poisonous to children and pets that may ingest the product. Follow the label and use the product accordingly.
Q. We have a lot of pine needles that haven fallen on our lawn. Will they lower the soil pH if I use my mulching mower on them and leave them on the lawn?
A. I have found a mulching mower does cut up some of the needles but not completely like it does for leaves. Still, mulching up leaves and needles and leaving them to decompose on the lawn, if not too thick, is a good practice. In time, they will break down and add nutrients and organic matter to the soil.
Regarding lowering pH, while it’s true that pine needles are very acidic (pH of 3.5), they do not transfer this acidity to the soil. Because the needles breakdown very slowly, by the time they have decayed enough to transfer nutrients, they are at a neutral pH.
Q. I’m new to growing rhubarb. What do I do for winter care?
A. Rhubarb can handle some cold weather. Stalks that are firm and upright can still be eaten, even after a frost. Don’t eat any that are soft and mushy. Once we have a hard frost, cut down the remaining stalks and compost or discard. Insects and disease can overwinter in leaves and stalks left in the garden. Then spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost or straw over the crowns to prevent winter winds from drying out the roots.
Kelly R. Jackson is the Christian County Extension Agent for horticulture. He can be reached at 270-886-6328 or visit Christian County Horticulture online at www.christiancountyextension.com.