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Stopping Squirrels In Their Tracks, and About the Serious Infestation of White Grubs
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale

email: art@artdrysdale.com

Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at http://www.artdrysdale.com


October 11, 1998

Last week I promised a selection of solutions for the problem of squirrels attacking tulip bulbs. There are three effective ways to prevent squirrels digging up your bulbs, if it has been a problem in the past. The first is to plant the bulbs much deeper, say 30 centimetres or 12 inches, rather than the 20 centimetres recommended for large bulbs such as tulips. This applies only if you have a light sandy or loamy soil. The second is to cover the planting area just slightly below the soil surface with nylon mesh, available when you buy your bulbs at your favourite garden centre. That stops squirrels digging. The third is use of a squirrel repellent. I think Squirrel Away, a natural harmless product, is the best repellent. And, keep in mind that generally squirrels prefer tulips to daffodils, so if you don't wish to try the other ideas, simply plant daffs (and fritillarias [which drive squirrels away]) instead of tulips.

While writing about pesky squirrels, I am reminded by garden centre managers in various parts of the Ontario, including Toronto, that hundreds of gardeners are still reporting a heavy infestations of white grubs in the soil. These almost always attract skunks and racoons that dig up the lawn areas, often leaving turf to resemble a farmer's plowed field. However, whether or not this occurs, their feeding habits on the roots of the grass will certainly weaken the turf, and if it does not cause dead spots this fall, it almost certainly will next summer during hot weather.

The best way to gauge whether you have an excessive number of grubs in your garden (they also attack the roots of a number of other plants), is to dig an area say 30 cm (1') square in a number of different locations of the garden. You should certainly include at least one such peeling back of the turf in both the front and back lawn. You need not go deep. Currently the grubs are being reported near the soil surface (5 cm or two inches). If you find less than eight or ten grubs in such an area, you likely don't have to worry. But, if you find more, then you will definitely have a problem.

If you do find an excessive number of grubs, it is best to apply Diazinon--the only chemical (the only treatment) that works well [70 percent control vs. only 40 percent for Chlorpyrifos in University of Guelph tests]. However, to work well, it should be applied on a well-wetted lawn (watered immediately in advance for at least an hour), and then watered for the same amount of time right after the application.

Now, if you don't have a hose-end applicator (such as a Dial-a-spray), there is a new, simple way to apply this control. At least two manufacturers have a ready-to-spray format that you simply hook up to the hose, turn the safety control, and the hose will apply just the right amount--no mixing and no mess! By the way, the ideal time to apply a grub control such as this is during a rainfall, when the watering before, and after is taken care of for you by Mother Nature! I've even been known to be out spraying with a hose-end in the middle of a rainfall, wearing a raincoat!

I cannot emphasize enough that if you have this digging or rolling-back of the turf problem this autumn, you are almost sure to have it again next spring--unless you treat the area, following the foregoing guidelines--immediately. I should stress that you must get the chemical on NOW.

Ordinarily at this time of year, the grubs would have started to go deeper in the soil for the winter. Once they do that, you will have wasted your time and the chemical because it will not reach them. And, you will have the same problem come spring. It would seem that our unusually dry and warm summer has meant that the grubs have delayed their departure for greater depths, and inmost areas in southern and south western Ontario at least, there is still time to apply Diazinon, and have it effective.

However, if in your digging to check for grubs you find none in the top 5 cm of soil, but many down lower, say at 10 or 15 cm, that's likely too deep for the chemical to be effective, and you should hold off the chemical application until next spring.

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