No bugs........with Dr. Doug @ Shepherd Glen*
         No bugs........with Dr. Doug                                                                          @ Shepherd Glen*

For Midwestern home gardeners and naturalists, just for fun!                                                               All my observations, photos, musings etc. on this website are centered on our 10 acres (named Shepherd Glen) in Jackson County Missouri, but I have found that observations (and frustrations) in our area translate pretty well throughout the Midwest.

Contact: askdrdoug@gmail.com

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Timely Topics 

I will inform you regularly about current topics, research projects, interesting facts, observations and other "stuff" worth knowing when it comes to gardening. Stop back often.

 

January 6, 2024

Keeping Problem birds off Suet Feeders

Although it does not seem to be as much of a problem in the dead of winter, however, as the winter tapers off, problem birds like starlings, grackles and blackbirds bully the other birds away from suet feeders. I have found that the best deterrences all have one thing in common – they hang the suet so the birds must hang upside down to feed. These “problem” birds do not feel comfortable doing so.

There are several ways to do this: a) buy one of many types of feeders designed to protect the top layer of the suet block (see an example in photo),  or 2) peel the thin plastic top off the whole suet block but leave the suet inside the package’s thicker plastic bottom and sides. Put the whole thing in a traditional style suet cage feeder but hang the suet cage on its side so that the exposed surface faces down. More agile birds like woodpeckers, chickadees, wrens, titmice, etc. can still eat fine.

Over time, the “bully” birds will figure this out, but again, they won’t stay for very long, and are less likely to dominate the suet.

October 16, 2023

 

It’s Time to Clean up the Garden

 

 

As fall sets in and there is a threat of frost, it's time to think about fall garden clean-up. For me the only remaining plants are tomatoes, peppers, and okra. I try to hang on to the okra as long as possible, because they only start producing with the summer heat. However, the peppers and tomato plants need to go.

 

With urban yard waste rules, there is a temptation to compost these plants, but they may be infested with both insect eggs and disease inoculum. Home gardening is difficult enough, without exposing next year’s plants with early season pest exposure from plant residue. I make a serious effort to remove these plants and any infected leaves that have fallen around the plants. This also holds true for those plants "lost" earlier in the season, especially crops like zucchini and cucumbers.

 

Options for disposal include: a) pay for yard waste service, b) find a neighbor with a yard waste bin (and ask to compensate them for a one-time use) or c) if you have property, as I do, take the refuse to the other side of the property (100 yards or more), and dispose of them.

 

 

August 5, 2023

 

Time to Divide Bearded Irises

 

You can usually tell that your irises need to be divided when a clump looks overgrown with rhizomes  starting to grow into each other and the plants not producing as many blooms. Lift and divide bearded irises every three to five years after flowering.

 

Late summer is the time to divide and replant irises, before the new roots are produced. Finish the job before October, so the plants have time to anchor themselves before winter dormancy. You will always have extra rhizomes, which are fun to share with friends and neighbors. Just be sure to cull out any old rhizomes showing insect damage, and any without any leaf fans showing!

 

Time to get ‘er done!

 

 

July 21, 2023

 

A Hum-dinger of a Solution

 

Ants love sweet things, especially in the Spring, so it's not surprising that they wreak havoc on hummingbird feeders. I have struggled with keeping them from clogging up the feeder, but was made aware of an easy (and cheap) solution.

 

At the International MasterGardener Conference here in KC, a hummingbird expert had a very simple solution based on ants behavior; ants don't like water, and won't cross it. A water-filled cup (moat) is available to hang above the feeder and the ants won't swim across it to get to the sugar water. Problem solved, but let's hope the hummingbirds haven't given up on me!

 

 

June 30, 2023

 

Let's Not be Rash !

 

As you become older, you hopefully become wiser.

 

Our green beans have been coming on like crazy, and it was time to pick. Two rows were ready so, it was going to take  a while to pick them. About half way through harvest, my arms started to itch, and there was a red rash up and down my forearms (I guess from the hairs on the leaves).

 

An immediate trip into the house for some Benadryl spray was definitely in order. However, this didn't deter me from the task at hand, but an intermediate stop to put on a long-sleeved shirt delayed the harvest just a bit. Next time I'll start with long-sleeves (and maybe pants). Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks!

 

 

 

May 2, 2023

 

Baltimore Orioles are Headed to Town

 

Thanks to the fame of the major league baseball team, most people recognize the beautiful orange and black Baltimore oriole. Although they are not seen here in abundance. 

 

Baltimore orioles can be seen in Missouri in the spring as they migrate through this area. They spend the winter in warm climates, such as Central and South America.

 

They arrive in Missouri in late April/early May, with most leaving by the end of August. Putting out oranges and grape jelly in your oriole feeders on May 1st might seem a bit early, but you want to be sure you are ready for the first arrivals. Remember that these birds have just migrated a long distance and will be extremely hungry and tired. 

 

 

April 25, 2023

 

Theory on why tomatoes were first thought toxic

 

The Latin for wolf is lycos and tomato soon became known as "wolf peach" in many parts of northern Europe because of its kinship to deadly nightshade. In the 18th century Carlos Linneas, the father of binomial nomenclature, gave tomato the scientific name of Lycopersicon esculentum which, literally interpreted, means "edible wolf peach." Recently, however, tomato's scientific name was changed to Solanum lycopersicon, placing it in the same genus as potato.

 

Some of the presumed toxicity of tomato in late medieval Europe might have been associated with tableware of that era. Aristocrats, whose illness and death likely would have received wide acclaim, commonly ate from plates made of pewter. The latter is an alloy of tin that, especially in days of old, contained a significant amount of lead. It is speculated by some that the acidic nature of tomato caused lead to be leached from pewter plates on which tomatoes were served. Thus, death was the result of lead poisoning indirectly caused by tomatoes.

 

SOURCE: https://ipm.missouri.edu/MEG/2023/4/tomato-DT

 

 

June 10, 2023

 

Update – Pollinators or not,

these Carpenter Bees are trouble!

 

We have had the largest number of carpenter bees this year, ever. To date I have captured nine bees, all of which have made numerous holes in the rafters of our deck. I measured the depth of one of the pencil-sized diameter holes and it was about 3” deep! The telltale sign of saw dust falling to the surfaces below, was hard to miss (see picture). Why so many this year, good question?

 

 

April 22, 2023

 

Be on the Lookout for Carpenter Bees!

 

Have you seen any solitary bumblebee-like insects hovering under your deck or porch eaves? They most likely are Carpenter Bees looking for a good place to drill for a nest.

 

Carpenter bees got their common name from their habit of boring into wood. They do not eat wood but cause damage to structures by drilling circular holes (about the diameter of a pencil) to create tunnels inside wood. Carpenter bees do not live in colonies but build individual nests in trees, or wood beams like deck frames, eaves, or sides of buildings.

 

Carpenter bees look like bumble bees, but do not have yellow markings on their abdomens. Instead, their abdomens are smooth and shiny, whereas bumble bees’ have hairy, yellow abdomens [see picture.]

The most common signs of a carpenter bee infestation are the round, smooth holes that carpenter bees bore into wood, and the piles of sawdust down below.

 

To identify early damage to buildings, homeowners should regularly inspect the perimeter of the home and surrounding property for the presence of these holes and hovering bees.  Sprays used to control wasp’s nests are also  effective when sprayed into carpenter bee holes.

 

 

April 5, 2023

 

Callery Pear Removal

 

Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) is a deciduous tree, more commonly known as “Bradford pear.”

 

The Bradford cultivar was widely planted as a promising new ornamental during the 1950s. Individual cultivars are considered self-sterile but different cultivars planted near each other can cross-pollinate and produce fruits and viable seed. These hybrid trees spread when the fruit is eaten and distributed by birds and other animals.

Callery pear trees can spread quickly in open areas and create thickets (see photo). It has spread along power lines, roadsides, in fields, parks, and other natural open areas and in the understory of forests.

It is considered an invasive species, and should be removed. Now is an easy time to identify them with their early blooming (white) habit. I cut young trees and paint the cut end with triclopyr, using the brush provided, so they do not re-sprout.

 

P.S. If you find one, look around - you likely will find 3 or 4 small ones nearby!

 

See “Important Events & Dates” Tab for information on a tree buy-back program.

 

 

March 25, 2023

 

Squaters have no Rights!

 

The continuing saga of sparrow squaters in bluebird nesting box. I have cleaned it out once, and two days later the sparrows were at it again. Notice the trash incorporated in the nest components. I will stay at it, but I am afraid the bluebirds will find another more suitable place in the mean time.

 

 

 

 

March 20, 2023

 

Is it a Bluebird Nest*?

 

So, you've checked your “bluebird” nesting box and there is a nest in it. However, you have seen several different birds visiting. How can you be sure it’s a bluebird nest, and not built by an invasive house sparrow?

 

Three factors will help you tell a bluebird nest from a house sparrow nest: 1) shape,

2) material, and 2) height.

 

Bluebirds make nests of fine grasses, woven together in a tidy cup, that sits below the entry hole (see picture). If you see feathers, they will be in the nesting area, and not mixed in.

 

House sparrows fill the box with a more loosely formed, messy nest with a wide array of materials, including leaves, old plastic, paper, feathers, sticks and even trash. House sparrows are famous for tunneling into their nests. You might see a hole in the side of the nesting material that goes into the nesting space.

 

House sparrows are not native or protected by law, so it is legal to remove their nests to protect native birds.

 

*Source: Nesthollow.com

 

 

 

March 19, 2023

 

Spring Emergers (ant. of Fall Invaders)!

 

Over the years, I have published several articles about fall invaders, the “bugs” that enter your home when the weather cools, looking for a safe harbor for the winter. [You will find one under the Gardening Articles Tab.] I explain how to protect your home from them entering through those cracks and cervices.

 

However, I have never written about what happens to the ones that sneak through your defenses. It is amazing how those Multi-colored Ladybird Beetles and Brown Marmorated Stinkbugs can squeeze through the tiniest crack in your window frames. You usually won’t see these invaders until the temperatures climb, especially with the sun warming the south and west facing windows. Then these critters emerge from their hiding places and crawl around on windowsills, and onto windows looking for a way out….much more difficult than getting in! It  seems like the ladybird beetles don’t survive as well, and you commonly find crispy dead beetles laying around. These are easily picked up with a small vacuum cleaner. Stinkbugs are more of a challenge, and must be caught (without smashing!), and most easily at lower levels; once they start to climb, they will head for the highest ground, which in our house is a 10’ ceiling!

 

 

February 10, 2023

 

Early Riser

 

Even before I see the tips of the daffodil leaves poking through the fallen leaves, the arrowhead-shaped leaves of my Italian Arum (Arum italicum) have already leafed-out. This early emerging perennial always gives me hope for the coming Spring. You see, the leaves of this plant go dormant in the summer, so one often worries that it may have been lost to the harsh summer conditions. However, this particular plant is not only tough, but its emergence brings back memories of previous homes and family. I first dug up its root at my brother and sister-in-law’s place in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, then moved to a home in Illinois and then relocated twice here in central Missouri. I always await its appearance, as “hope springs eternal”!

 

 

January 29, 2023

 

Suet Feeder Challenges

 

We always hang a suet feeder in addition to our normal seed feeder to attract especially the woodpeckers. However, as Spring approaches the grackles and starlings bully the other birds away from the suet feeder. A Naturalist at Burr Oak Woods recommended a suet feeder where the top is covered. Apparently woodpeckers and the like (even the large Northern Flicker pictured) do not mind hanging upside down to feed, but grackles and starlings do. Problem solved!

 

 

January 24, 2023

Bird Feeder Blues

Our bird feeder is on the deck so we (and our grandkids) can see the birds up close. However, the sunflower hulls and other waste make a mess, and it gets caught in-between the deck boards. Even though I have a tarp under the feeder, it is a constant clean-up battle and come Spring it’s a real mess. You can buy sunflower seed without hulls (hearts or chips), but it is pricy compared with it in the shell. Sunflower seed is reported to be 35 to 45% hull. Therefore, a 50-pound bag of it yields roughly 30 pounds of bird food and 20 pounds of waste. Per pound, sunflower hearts are about 30% more in price. I’ve easily decided that it’s worth it to me to pay the extra and have less mess to clean up under the feeder, and potentially prolong the life of my deck. What's that worth to you?

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