Columnists : Joan Swenson

Thursday, Apr 16 2009 04:26 PM

Growing new sweet peas is easier than you'd think

Caroline O. Reid, who claims not to have a green thumb, seems to have the perfect way of dealing with the sweet pea question: Should one replant sweet peas every year or let them go to seed and buy new seeds to plant in the fall?

She writes, "I planted them five years ago and each year I let part of them go to seed and I just pull the plant out after I think enough seeds have dropped. I don't pay any attention to them and this spring they really popped out all over the place! It just goes to show you that any idiot can grow sweet peas!"

Caroline sent a picture of her sweet peas, which is charming. Some are trained on a lattice and the others wind through an old metal patio chair.

Squirrels, the cute pest

Sitting last weekend in the kitchen, enjoying the sunshine and the newspapers, I heard the solid thump of something landing on our patio roof. I stepped outside. Our dogs, like pointers, were staring at the roof, where a large red fox squirrel was walking about. He had flung himself from the Chinese elm and, as I watched, launched himself back at the thin, drooping foliage and then scrambled back to a heftier branch.

I was recently admiring the elm, which is not so close to the house that it touches it, but close enough for summer shade. It's clear that it's time to do some trimming, however, now that I've seen Mr. Squirrel doing his thing. Trees like this are the perfect way for squirrels and rats to get on your roof and possibly in your attic.

Squirrels may be cute, but my neighbor down the block heard (and saw) one gnawing on an exterior beam of her house and these squirrels are well-known for damage they've done to sprinkler systems, wiring and roofs in our area. I once heard squirrels referred to as rats with better public relations.

I've never had squirrels in my attic -- just planting almonds and pecans in our lawn -- but I've had rats break in three times in the 20 years I've lived in my house and I found a dead roof rat on the side yard a month ago. They're icky to scoop up and dispose of, because roof rats have greasy-looking tails that are longer than their body.

If you live in a brand-new neighborhood, you may not have rats yet. But give it time. Mature neighborhoods with fruit and nut trees are excellent sources of food for rats (and squirrels). If you have citrus and find hollowed out citrus fruit, it was a rat dining al fresco. We were surprised by a rat jumping out of one of our raised vegetable boxes planted with tomatoes some years ago.

To reduce rats in your yard, get rid of clutter and debris that can offer shelter for rats. Remove clinging vines from buildings to reduce attic access. Keep shrubs trimmed at least three feet from the house. And for goodness' sake, don't feed the squirrels.

Garden fest at BC

The fourth annual Bakersfield College Garden Fest runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the BC Arboretum. Admission is free to watch demonstrations on gardening and visit booths of gardening clubs, schools, parks and recreation and "green" organizations, plus vendors including nurseries and garden-related businesses, pet businesses and local artists. Fruits and vegetables will be for sale and breakfast and lunch, prepared by BC culinary arts students, will be available.

Rose Society show

The Kern County Rose Society's 16th annual show is May 2 and 3 at the Veterans Hall, 400 W. Norris Road. Entries will be accepted from 7 to 9:30 a.m. May 2.

The show will be open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. May 2 and from noon to 4 p.m. May 3. Admission is free and plants and garden goods donated by members and local businesses will be raffled.

For rose show information contact show chairman Francis Ratliff, 366-7796.

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