Q: We are having a problem with squirrels in our yard. While they are adorable to watch, they have been gnawing on our metal patio furniture. Is there anything we can do to make them stop that?
Also, we have a garden railroad in our yard that is a G scale size. We have several small houses around to create a village, working railyard, gold mine, etc., and included small figures when we can find them. We even had a gold miner and donkey. However, the gold miner is missing and I believe has been taken hostage by the squirrels.
For the winter, we remove all the figures and buildings, but I would guess when we put them back in the spring, we will have the same problems. Any suggestions?
Gary Stout, Folsom
A: Thanks for the humorous letter. Has the ransom been set as bags of peanuts?
There is no question that dealing with squirrels can be a real problem, said UC Master Gardener Bill Pierce. Squirrels are known to chew on plastic sprinkler heads and irrigation lines and will chew on wood.
With pet rabbits, a block of wood in their cage gives them something to work their teeth against. Perhaps a few small pieces of 2-by-4 in your yard would cause the squirrels to leave your metal patio furniture alone. Could be worth a try. Additional information on squirrels can be found at www.ipm.ucdavis.edu.
Anything citrus particularly lemon helps keep squirrels away. So does cayenne pepper. Grannick's Bitter Apple spray, available at PetSmart and other major chains, is a proven squirrel repellent and is safe for patio furniture and cushions.
Q: I read the article about selecting of plants for areas affected by direct sunlight and winter temperatures. I was leaning toward carpet roses (which was one of the plants recommended), but could not find the amount I needed, so I settled for geraniums. That was a bad choice.
I live in Cedarwood Mobile Home Park on Gerber Road and we have an infestation of rabbits whole families. Shortly after planting the geraniums, the rabbits proceeded to consume all the blossoms and part of the plants.
Would carpet roses survive the rabbits? What can be done about the numerous rabbits that reside in our mobile home park?
Unfortunately, many of our residents feed the rabbits, which then become almost pet-like. Any suggestions you can give me to control the proliferation of rabbits would be appreciated.
James F. Page, Sacramento
A: If hungry, rabbits would probably do some damage to the younger tips of the carpet roses, but the density of the branching plant and the presence of thorns might be a deterrent, according to UC Master Gardener June Bliele.
There are a number of methods available for reducing rabbit damage, but physical exclusion, trapping and, to a lesser degree, repellents are choices for protecting garden and home areas.
Probably the most long-term, effective way to protect plantings from rabbit damage is to build a fence. Poultry netting (chicken wire) supported by light stakes will provide adequate control. Regular inspection of the fencing is recommended.
Detailed information on fencing, trapping and repellents is available online at www.ipm.ucdavis.edu. Look for "Pest Note 7447 Rabbits." This information is also available by sending a self-addressed, stamped business-size envelope to: PN 7447, UC Cooperative Extension, 4145 Branch Center Road, Sacramento, CA 95827.
Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties.
Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put "Garden Detective" in the subject field and include your postal address.