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How to outfox hungry deer, rabbits, squirrels and more

Placer County master gardeners host free online workshop

Mule deer
Keeping deer out of gardens is a battle for foothill
gardeners as well as those who live near the rivers
or in semi-rural area. (Photo by W. Paul Gorenzel,
courtesy UCIPM)

What will deer eat? Whatever they like. The real question for foothill gardeners: What won’t deer eat?

The same goes for rabbits and other voracious critters, who can destroy a garden seemingly overnight. Squirrels can strip fruit trees bare. Gophers attack plants from below, chomping through roots and tunneling under lawns.

But there are ways to outfox hungry wildlife. Learn how with the help of the UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Placer County.

“From Bambi to Thumper: An Integrated Strategy for the Management of Vertebrate Pests” will be presented at 10:30 a.m. March 13. This one-hour Zoom workshop is available free to gardeners anywhere there’s internet access. No advanced registration is required.

Whether you’re dealing with deer who don’t know their limits or opportunistic rodents, the master gardeners have a plan. That starts with identifying what is actually doing the damage.

“Learn how to use Integrated Pest Management to identify and control garden damage from squirrels, gophers, deer and other pests,” say the organizers.

Those effective strategies include plant selection. For example, deer tend to avoid such aromatic plants as lavender, rosemary and garlic.

Don’t underestimate the intelligence or hunger of these pesky critters; garden defense needs several different methods to truly be effective.

In case you can’t make this workshop or missed earlier workshops, Placer County master gardeners are now offering recordings of their virtual workshops online via their website.

Full details (including the Zoom link to the Bambi workshop):


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For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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