Nothing is more frustrating than spending your free time trying to cultivate a healthy garden, only to have it overrun with underground pests. In this article we discuss what to do about moles.

Poisons are usually the first method that a homeowner thinks of, but is not necessarily the best choice. Poisoned gummy worms or pellets with bromethalin may be inserted in an active tunnel, but they may pose a hazard to humans and pets and may possibly enter the wildlife food chain. If poison baits are left in place, they have the potential of being washed into water sources. When using any type of poison or chemical, carefully read and follow the label instructions.

The most effective control for moles is to cut off the food supply. Using a grub treatment for a lawn is a common practice. Systemic grub treatments that contain imidacloprid as an active ingredient can be applied to the lawn area in May. These are available in ready-to-spray, hose-end sprayers or granular formulations. Granular products are easier to apply, but be sure to irrigate with at least ½ inch of water immediately after application. Because these products are systemic within the turfgrass, they will last the entire growing season. Granular grub killers that contain trichlorfon or carbaryl are contact insecticides that should be applied in early July and are spread over the lawn and watered in well. At this time, the grubs are small and close to the surface, so the contact insecticide will be very effective in eradicating the young grubs. This will last for about two weeks. Application in the late summer or fall is not as effective, as the older grubs will go deeper in the soil and are harder to kill. Neither of these methods are completely successful, as the moles will switch to other prey, such as earthworms and other insects.

As a more environmentally friendly but temporary solution to a mole infestation, consider an application of castor oil to the lawn. It is available as a spray or in a granular form and will repel moles and voles for about two weeks.

Do you ever think, "The shorter I cut the grass, the less I need to mow."?
Not true! For the best quality turf, only remove one-third of the grass blade with each mow. Shorter clippings break down more easily, allowing some of the natural nitrogen to return to the soil. If you cut too much at one time, the long clippings can cause stress on the grass, inhibiting healthy growth.

Have you heard that you should keep a consistent mowing pattern?
The truth is that it's easy to fall into a mowing routine, but frequently cutting grass in the same direction can mat down the turf and inhibit growth. By varying your mowing pattern, you will reduce strain on the turf and encourage a healthier, more beautiful lawn.

Summer's finally here, which means we as gardeners are either worried about our plants drying out, or getting oversaturated from the plentiful rain.
There's no question that we experience a fair amount of rain during the summer months in Western North Carolina, and we have seen recent flooding. We've got gardening tips on the best practices for your garden this summer. 

Garden Care
If it doesn’t rain, water new seeds and transplants daily until established. Water mature plants as needed. Frequency will depend on rainfall and temperature. Check the soil for moisture, and watch plants for symptoms of drought stress (leaves drooping in the morning or early evening). Soil in the vegetable garden should be kept moist but not muddy. Knowing the type of soil in your garden will help you determine how frequently it should be watered. A soil that is heavy with lots of clay will need to be watered less frequently than a soil that is lighter with lots of air pockets, such as a sandy soil or container garden soil.

Fertilize only as needed following the recommendations on your soil analysis. Crops with long growing seasons, such as corn and tomatoes, may need additional fertilizer partway through the growing season. Watch for symptoms of nitrogen and other nutrient deficiency (including leaves turning yellow and slow growth). Avoid the urge to overfertilize, which can produce lush plant growth but decrease flowering and fruit development and increase pest problems.

Mulch to maintain moisture and manage weeds. One to two inches of weed-free loose mulch (including shredded leaves, grass clippings (seed-free), wheat straw, and pine bark mulch) or five to six layers of newspaper should be enough to keep weeds down and the soil moist.

Caring for roses can be tricky! Here are a few tips to help you out:
In summer remove old flowers and prune just above a five or seven leaf branch. This will encourage your bush to fill in and spread out. When you are cleaning up rose bushes, always look for a few things:

Crossing Branches – Rose bushes like air, they don’t do well with dense foliage. Look for crossing branches and make small diagonal snips to prevent branches from crossing and rubbing.

Damaged Stems – If you happen to find any damaged stems make a diagonal cut just below the damaged stem. Removing damaged stems will allow the rose bushes to have new growth creating a stronger and healthier rose bush.

Disease – Watch for any fungus or insect problems on your roses. Black spot and beatles are common problems for rose bushes.

If you happen to find black spot, cut it away from the plant, disinfect your pruners and throw the disease into a closed trash can.
Roses make a wonderful addition to our gardens but require a moderate amount of attention.

We’re in the midst of the “Dog Days of Summer” here in Western North Carolina. That’s right, the hottest time of year is upon us, so what does that mean for your garden? The sun is a constant threat, although we’ve been experiencing quite a bit of rain the last few weeks. The best times to garden are in the early morning or the late afternoon before the sun rises the temperature, meaning that for many of us that really leaves only the weekend to tend to our gardens. We’ve got a few tips for you to consider for your gardens during August to help them continue to flourish even in the heat!