Patrick Dennis / AP file

Raccoons dig holes in yards looking for grubs and worms. They are frustrating opponents.

Garden Detective: Moss, raccoons

Published: Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 8CALIFORNIA LIFE

Q: Help! We have moss growing in a shaded area of our yard and also on the planter edging. Can we spray bleach water on the ground and be effective? This is getting to be a very big problem as I feel it is spreading.

– Jane Shore, Citrus Heights

Laundry bleach mixed with water at a 9-1 ratio – nine cups water to one cup bleach – will kill the moss. But it also will damage any other plants it's splashed on. So, be careful when you use it.

According to UC master gardeners, moss develops in poorly drained soils. Consider aerating your soil as an alternative to the bleach solution. This can be accomplished by simply loosening the soil with a spading fork.

If the moss is in the lawn, aeration with a machine that removes plugs of soil along with an application of high nitrogen fertilizer will clear up the problem.

Increasing sun exposure also is recommended. If possible, prune back trees or shrubs to allow more sun to reach your mossy spots.

Q: The holes started some time ago – quite deep holes in the flower beds, the grass, the pots, everywhere! They are even digging under my flagstone.

Finally, we heard something at 3 a.m. and I am staring face to face with the biggest raccoon sitting on the neighbor's roof. It then hopped onto our fence and into our backyard. Then, a second one appears, as big as a dog.

I have sprayed the yard with bug larvae killer, but this appears to have not done anything. I am very frustrated. I do not want to put out any poison. I am ready to give up the yard and just let them have at it. Please help!

– Juliana Coulombe, West Sacramento

According to UC Master Gardener Liz Haines, raccoons are found across most of the United States and southern Canada. Their natural habitat is moist woodland, but these nocturnal animals are extremely adaptable and easily live near humans.

Raccoons are omnivorous – they'll eat anything. They scavenge from garbage cans and compost piles. Pet food left out overnight ranks high on their menu.

In suburban areas, gardens with fresh vegetables and fruit are frequent targets for nightly raids. They also dig up lawns to get insects.

Eliminating raccoons is difficult and frustrating. Combining methods of habitat modification, exclusion, repellents, trapping and materials to frighten the animals may help resolve the problem. But it's important to be persistent with each method.

A word of caution: Never approach an adult raccoon when it is trapped or cornered as they are vicious with very sharp claws and teeth.

For more information on coping with raccoons, send a stamped, business-size, self-addressed envelope to: Pest Note No. 74116, UC Cooperative Extension, 4541 Branch Center Road, Sacramento, CA 95827. This information is also available online at


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 h& Please put "Garden Detective" in the subject field and include your postal address. To contact your UC Extension directly, call:

• Sacramento: (916) 875-6913; 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. weekdays

• Amador: (209) 223-6838; 10 a.m.-noon Monday through Thursday; email

• Butte: (530) 538-7201; 8 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. weekdays

• El Dorado: (530) 621-5512; 9 a.m.-noon weekdays

• Placer: (530) 889-7388; 9 a.m.-noon on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays or leave a message and calls will be returned

• Nevada: (530) 273-0919; 9 a.m.-noon Tuesdays through Thursday or leave a message

• Shasta, Tehama, Trinity: (530) 225-4605

• Solano: (707) 784-1322; leave a message and calls will be returned

• Sutter, Yuba: (530) 822-7515; 9 a.m.-noon Mondays and Tuesdays and 1-4 p.m. Thursdays

• Yolo: (530) 666-8737; 9-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, or leave a message and calls will be returned

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