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Corralling moles

Is it possible to fence out moles? My sense is that it is possible but not at all easy. Dig-ging a three-foot trench and putting tight mesh stainless steel fabric into it won’t stop moles from crawling above ground and past the fence. And leaving a six-inch metal lip would be an accident waiting to happen, unless the lip was tied into a deer fence.

For individual wooden-sided raised beds, it is possible to attach ¼ inch stainless steel netting onto the underside of the frame. This has helped several gardeners to reduce their mole activity to the paths in between (or far undevoles out as well. I have seen costs of ~$70 for a 48” by 25 foot roll.

Several gardeners have installed tall (10-12 inches high) wooden-sided raised beds on a 10-12 inch deep layer of 1-2 inch crushed rock and felt that it effectively deterred moles.

Best advice: Develop your inner “garden protector” instincts and learn to trap those interesting but vexing rascals. For more information on mole trapping see http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74115.html.

Root-bound transplants

Our unpredictable spring weather is a nightmare for nurseries that grow bedding plants. They have to be ready to provide plants if we get a warm April but also be able to hold them until the weather improves finally in mid-May.

Avoid buying bedding plants or woody plants that show signs of wilting. I know one person who won’t by a container with a woody plant if the container feels light. That is a sign that it may have been under-watered. Those plants will be set back and may not perform as expected.

Root-bound plants are a little more complicated. The advice on herbaceous perennials and annuals has been to look at the roots and if they are circling, cut them to force new outward growth. This is not good advice. Evidence is that annuals flowers and vegetables) and herbaceous perennials will root out into the surrounding soil without being cut. In fact, cutting seems to make the process worse. Remember this applies only to bedding plants, not woody plants.

Woody plants with serious circling larger roots must be unwound or the plant will not aggressively develop a strong root system in the surrounding soil. The circling by itself can lead to root growth that can ultimately strangle the plant. Strategic root cutting may be necessary with these plants. That said, it best not to buy them. You can pull plants out of one or two gallon containers to look at the roots before you buy. This isn’t so practical on larger plants.

Corn chatter

Corn and tomatoes are favorite garden crops in this area. We all get anxious and want to get those plants in the ground, often before the weather really has cooperated. This year might be a year to gamble on early planting. Many garden soils are ready to be tilled. Be-fore planting, add four pounds of actual nitrogen (organic or synthetic) per 1000 square feet of garden (that is the equivalent of 40 pounds of a fertilizer where the first number is “10,” like 10-20-20).

The supersweet corn varieties that are now most commonly grown need very warm soil at planting. They are more prone to fungal and insect attack if they sit in cool soils. It may be helpful to till up an area and cover it with clear or black plastic for several days to increase the temperature. Clear plastic will give you more heat gain but will also stimulate the weed seeds. Black plastic gives less heat but also knocks out that first flush of weeds if it is kept on there for 8-10 days. You can leave the clear plastic on until you can just see the tips of the corn emerging. Then you can cover the planting with a row cover to speed seedling growth. It will also protect the crop from hungry crows.

Corn spacing is a perennial topic of conversation. I see lots of corn that is jammed too close together to produce well. People can’t bring themselves to thin seedlings. The take-home message is that you should end up with a corn plant about every 8-10” if you have 30” between rows. If you have a wider row spacing (say 36”), you may be able to narrow the “in-row” spacing down to 6”. But don’t try to avoid thinning by planting less corn. Insects, diseases, or crows can knock a lot of plants out and then you have wasted all that precious growing time. Plant enough and then go out and thin.

Corn that is thinned can be transplanted into some adjacent rows. Those transplants will mature about 2-3 weeks later, just as the first planting is slowing down. A final note, don’t forget to give your corn a shot of nitrogen when the plants get up about knee-high. This is called side-dressing. It will boost your crop after the initial fertilizer has been somewhat used up. You did use sufficient fertilizer, either organic or synthetic, in the beginning, didn’t you?

The OSU Extension office is closed to face-to-face public contact but you can still reach us.

All of us (faculty and staff) will still be working (mostly out of the office), answering phone calls left on our answering machines, email messages (chip.bubl@oregonstate.edu), writing newspaper columns and newsletters, and working to develop programs that can reach you online.

We are really committed to helping our communities in any way we can, especially in our areas of subject matter expertise (farming, gardening, forestry, food, food safety, and nutrition, healthy decision-making, and youth education) and any other way we can enrich your life and/or make you safer in these challenging times. Please do not hesitate to contact us. And please, take all steps necessary to ensure that you and your loved ones are safe.

Free online OSU vegetable gardening class

Free online beginning OSU/Food Bank vegetable gardening class (“Seed to Supper”)

Free newsletter

The Oregon State University Extension office in Columbia County publishes a monthly newsletter on gardening and farming topics (called County Living) writ-ten/edited by yours truly. All you need to do is ask for it and it will be mailed or emailed to you. Call 503 397-3462 to be put on the list. Alternatively, you can find it on the web at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/columbia/ and click on newsletters.

Many Extension publications available online

Are you putting up salsa, saving seeds, or thinking about planting grapes? OSU has a large number of its publications available for free download. Just go to https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu. Click on publications and start exploring.

The Extension Service offers its programs and materials equally to all people.

Contact information for the Extension office

Oregon State University Extension Service – Columbia County

Address: 505 N. Columbia River Highway St. Helens, OR 97051

Phone: 503 397-3462

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