From Loon Lake Rod – Pests are part and parcel of Spring

Barbara Hendricks' monthly column on community news and events in Loon Lake.

Spring has always been a short season at Loon Lake Road with Winter holding on until April and summer arriving in May. This year has been different; we have had a wonderfully long spring season and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Flowers on shrubs came out early and have given a lovely display for as long as three weeks whereas usually they are so blasted by the heat that they fall off within a week. The native deciduous trees have now all leafed out. The evergreens are in bloom and while their flowers are quite inconspicuous, the clouds of pollen on the wind are not. There is a yellow layer of pollen powder covering every flat surface in the garden and on the deck. There should be another bumper crop of cones this Fall as there was last year. In the garden little seedling evergreens are emerging everywhere; I never thought I would be treating fir trees as weeds and pulling them out from between the irises.

While Cache Creek and Ashcroft are known for the strong winds, at Loon Lake Road we have also had an unusually long period with strong winds bringing down branches and whole trees in some instances. The loud noise of the wind can sometimes be mistaken for a motor running some distance away. The hummingbirds usually arrive here around mid-April, however they were later coming than some other years and it could have been that the winds affected their travel. A bird so small and lightweight must have some challenges flying in high winds. However now they are back for the Summer and up to their usual antics of diving and fighting over feeders. They provide deck-side entertainment for the cats as well as guests who have never seen a hummingbird up close before.

The short Winter with few very cold days has meant that the pesky bugs in the garden came through in large numbers. Already the aphids are collecting under the leaves of the currant. The continued increase in the number and variety of insects that are harmful in the garden cannot however be blamed solely on warm Winters. We have lost our major ally in keeping insect populations in check with the kill off of song birds. Every year I note fewer and fewer birds migrating through the area. And while it is a blessing of sorts not to have more white crowned sparrows eating every green sprout in the garden, it is a major help to have the chickadees and juncos in the trees and shrubs gleaning out insects and eggs. Have we forgot the sad case of the famine in China 60 years ago that was caused by the order to kill off all the sparrows as they were eating too much grain? With the sparrows gone the insects multiplied, ate all the grain and millions of people starved to death.

The spring weather and the return of many residents from their Winter migration has turned conversations once again to the problems of the deer eating much prized plants and shrubs. Gardeners are attracted by the ˝deer resistant˝ label on some plants and are then quite angry that the deer ate them anyway. Well, the label says “deer resistant”, not “deer won’t eat”. Resistant means the plant will probably not be killed by the deer grazing on the plant. In my garden the deer nibble on just about everything when the young green shoots emerge; including daffodils, rhubarb, irises, day lilies and other stuff labelled as deer resistant as well as most shrubs as they leaf out and almost every kind of flower. They will leave the foliage of some plants like peonies but the flowers are quickly eaten up. In my experience the only plants deer do not eat or nibble on are lady’s mantle, nepeta, creeping thymes and other strong smelling herb foliage. Some gardeners have some success with a spray that repels the deer to protect their plants. I use fencing and put my wire hanging baskets upside down to protect early spring bulbs – as they are finished blooming by the time I need to use the baskets for their main purpose.

In this seed starting time I have been looking at repurposing stuff that would otherwise be sent to recycling. I have borrowed an idea from an English gardening book on using empty cardboard toilet rolls as seedling starter pots. They are working well for me, with the peas happily growing in them. I stand the rolls on end in a box that can drain and fill the rolls with seeding mix and then sow the peas and beans indoors, to give them a good start. It takes a long time for the garden soil to warm up at this elevation with the cold night, so often direct sowing results in rotting seeds and no crop. This method gets the roots well developed then each roll can be planted out without disturbing the roots so much for an earlier start.

The TNRD is offering a Free Disposal Day at the Loon Lake transfer station on Saturday, June 6. This year residents may bring one free load per household to the transfer station. One load is defined as ˝a maximum of one eight foot pick-up truck box OR one eight foot trailer˝. This includes material you usually have to pay for such as cooling appliances, tires on rims, mattresses, furniture, renovation waste, wood waste, roofing shingles and household garbage. No business or commercial loads will be accepted for free. The same offer will be available at Clinton and 70 Mile transfer stations on the same day for those who are residents of those communities. The TNRD reminds residents to secure their load and tarp it. This is a good initiative from the TNRD and with a good response and consideration from residents this could become a regular event.

Barbara Hendricks