Saturday, January 17, 2009

Garden Pests & Problems, Natural Housecleaning, Which Fish are Safe to Eat

Natural ways to get rid of or repel insects and pests inside the house and out, including ants, mice, weeds, & moths (see my 10/18/05 comments under this category). Also squirrels, moles, rabbits, invasive or overgrown plants. Natural ways to keep cats out of your garden (11/16/05) Learn how to maintain an organic, pesticide and herbicide-free yard. Even find out which fish are safe to eat. Feel free to ask questions or add your own tips under this category at



At 8:02 PM, Blogger Andreas of Scarborough said...


A number of years ago I lived with Mum for a time after I left my "wife" following my breakdown--but that's another story.

Years before Mum had had an
above-ground swimming pool which had been sunk into the ground. This pool was supposedly new, however, it constantly leaked as it had been patched on numerous occasions BEFORE Mum bought it. She had been conned!

This type of pool-liner was quite OK to sink below ground, provided it was in a brick enclosure. In peak condition it was just as good as a cement or fibreglass pool, but much cheaper. But due to the patches it constantly leaked and so was of little use. Hence in time the liner was removed and a brick-surrounded hole in the ground resulted.

I'm sure you can imagine that with a sand floor it didn't take long for weeds to grow and turn this hole into a weed-jungle--most unattractive!

To fix this problem I cleaned it up
and planted a garden, complete with a cover of sorts for vines to ramble over. Most of the materials for this project I collected from roadside rubbish piles during the appointed time for the municipal government (called Councils in Australia) doing its annual collection of rubbish from the households in the area. All I had to buy were some nails, and nuts and bolts, which was hardly any expense at all!

This structure lasted quite a few years, and on one occasion Mum lost her balance throwing some leaves into it to compost and was able to hold onto the structure and stop herself from falling. She is quite OK, but that incident gave her a fright, as you might imagine!

Recently, however, I dismantled it and built another one of a very different design as snails had killed the passionfruit vine (passiflora species, botanically) growing up it, and it was a little rickety.

I called the first structure the Mark I, and this new one is the Mark II.

While we head into winter in Australia and therefore a time when vines don't fruit, Mum's new vine has two pices of fruit growing beautifully, and many flowers which may still develop into fruit. We will have to wait and see on this score.

Also in the Mark II are staghorns and elkhorns, which need redoing on logs as their original homes in an old birdcage,and various other containers have had their day. And on the ground there are numerous other plants including nasturtiums. There are planty of snails in residence, but so far they haven't done much damage. When I see one on the vine--well I'm sure you can imagine what I do to it!

Underlying all these plants is mulch, and as there are many trees in the area and in Mum's backyard, leaves are always swept into the "pool" to add to the mulch. Hence there are hardly any weeds at all. The sand is yellow, which for gardening is totally useless and the mulch enriches the ground making successful growing of anything possible. Yay for mulch.

Very soon I'll post some photos of the Marks I and II either here or on my own blog
A Slice of Life at

But for now I hope this helps with your further edication into utilising holes in the ground.

Kindest regards,

Andreas of Scarborough.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger amygeekgrl said...

A great website for finding natural ways to clean is: Homemade Cleaners.
A few that I've used from there include a furniture polish made from olive oil and lemon juice (which worked really well), and a glass cleaner using water and vinegar and a drop of blue food coloring to make it resemble Windex.
I also like to use Baking Soda or Borax for scrubbing/scouring.
To read more about my natural cleaning adventures, visit my blog.

Keep up the good work, Darlene! :)


At 5:04 AM, Blogger Darlene said...

My friend ANDREAS, in Australia, is brimming with knowledge and anecdotes related to nature. It’s also a joy reading his writings, and he’s a super-great guy. I’m sure if you have a question, he’d love to help, or just share some of your experiences with him. Please visit his site, The Blogs of Andreas Krokene. Just click on the links on his home page to find the one you want.

At 1:13 PM, Anonymous spruce said...

Andreas, what a great story!

Does anyone have suggestions for ridding my garden of creeping charley (Glechoma hederacea)? I've never used herbacides in my yard and never thought I would but I'm loosing all hope of wining this battle. All hand removal efforts have failed. I can practically hear it taking over another foot of my rhubarb patch even as I type this. Any suggestions?

At 4:42 PM, Blogger Emerld said...

I'd like a natural and friendly way to repel rabbits from eating all my newly planted flowers.

At 8:36 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

Emerld, to stop rabbits from digging up your plants, several suggestions include:

Put mothballs near your plants, but not directly on them;

Stuff some pantyhose with human or animal hair and place them around in your garden;

Sprinkle used cat litter in your garden; or,

A supposedly fail-safe way: Put up a fence, 18" high and buried at least 3" deep.

Hope whichever you try works!

I found these suggestions at AZCENTRAL.COM, Arizona's home page. Click on food/home, scroll down to garden/more. Lots of great home & garden tips there!

At 8:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dar, I have had moles for a long time in our front and back yard, they dig and make surprisingly big holes for such little critters. Sometimes there are 10-12 in the morning..... making the lawn really a mess. Is there any remedy that is harmless to my cat and dog that would work to chase them away. This has been a problem for ages now. Love from your friend and sister in law, MIss you tons. Sherrie

At 2:25 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

How to get rid of moles: Whew, I love doing research, but this one is a doozy. For one thing, yours is an age-old problem. The time-proven (un-natural) solution is to use mole traps, but they’re gruesome.

I read in several places that moles eat grubs, so if you have grubs in your yard and can get rid of them, you can get rid of the moles. (I also read that earthworms attract moles, but gardeners don’t want to get rid of earthworms, because they help drainage by breaking down organic matter in the soil.)

Garden centers sell grub spray with their directions for usage. Otherwise, several people said sprinkling coffee grounds around or down mole holes definitely worked for them. One person even said pouring human urine from a jar into the holes worked.

Castor oil was another remedy I read about. There’s Mole-Max, by Bonide, which is a natural repellant because it’s based on castor oil, but you can make your own solution. It’s highly recommended that you use 1 pint of castor oil to a quart of water over a 2,500 sq. ft. area maximum.

I’m going to call in some of my friends for their suggestions. Amy, Crunchy Domestic Goddess; Andy, The Blogs of Andreas; and Jocelyn, Lakewood 2-Flat for their help, too.

Good luck! So glad I don’t have those critters.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger amygeekgrl said...

Here's what I found online about getting rid of moles naturally. Hope this helps! :)

My blog


Castor Oil* and Liquid Detergent. Whip together 1
tablespoon castor oil and 2 tablespoons liquid detergent
in a blender until the mixture is like shaving cream. Add
6 tablespoons water and whip again. Keep this mixture out
of the reach of your children and pets. Take a garden
sprinkling can and fill with warm water. Add 2
tablespoons of the oil mixture and stir. Sprinkle
immediately over the areas of greatest mole infestation.
For best results, apply after a rain or thorough watering.
If moles are drawn to your lawn because of the grubs
feeding in the soil, you may be able to rid yourself of
both pests by spreading milky spore disease to kill the

At 3:41 PM, Blogger Andreas of Scarborough said...


Hopefully, the answer will follow; soon! Not having moles in Western Australia, I'll ask my North American writer friends for an answer. Stay tuned, folks!

At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Sherrie said...

Hi Darlene, Thanks so much for the interesting remedies on mole removal. I think I will try the coffee grounds, as I have plenty of them first:::then the castor Oil will be next to try. I think these are more humane methods of removal. We have a very moist lawn, which also adds to them problem. Raccoons love to dig our back yard, for I would imagine now getting your advice, must be also one of the reasons they pick on us. Will keep you informed which remedy works! Much warm regards, Love Sherrie

At 9:40 PM, Blogger Andreas of Scarborough said...

Greetings All,

I'm sorry I haven't writen earlier on the question of safe-and-humane mole-removal. My North American friends weren't able to shed any light on this subject, and therefore, neither can I, regretfully!

However, that doesn't mean I can't comment in some manner. Having said that here are some comments for your consideration.


If the moles will not remove themselves, then it becomes necessary to formulate a plan-of-attack, but humanely.

One way is to invite all your friends to a party to say Goodbye to these pests, but DON'T invite the moles. Then place tables and so forth over the mole hills in such a manner that IF they poke their heads up, they will IMMEDIATELY pull them down again. Should the party last a long time--four or five hours should do--they will get the point and emmigrate.

Of course, I have never tried this out and can't guarantee any success with this method, but at least you should forget about the moles decimating your lawn for the duration of the party, and it might even work!

Alternatively, you could try to evict them through the Court and legal processes, however this isn't as much fun as the party idea, and is rather more expensive, too!

Another thing you might try is to plant flowers around the holes, but flowers unloved by moles in a bid to force them to emmigrate. This of course is wth the usual disclaimers as I do not know whether it will work or not.

The last thing to try is laughter. It won't do a single thing for the moles, but it is better than crying!

I hope these advices help, and in any event,

Kindest regards,


PS Sometimes I can even be serious, but not too often!

At 5:02 AM, Blogger Darlene said...

Andy, you pulled through with the best response yet. I'm all for a party! Show those critters we won't let them intimidate us, and party on! Maybe they'd even get so jealous they'd stop tunneling and promise not to bother us any more if we let them join us.

Wow, what a way to start the day. I'm getting ready to go to work, read this, and happiness replaces my gloom. Just wish everyone who has joined this "nature info" community could really get together and have one big picnic and meet each other. And you bet, the moles could come, too!

At 12:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dar, and a note to Andreas, who is a very clever girl with all of her very unique suggestions. I definitely will give the "party" idea first try. After giving all the advice some thought, I am giving the castor oil in water a first attempt. I will keep you all informed of my progress in this highly difficult and very sensitive issue. Every now and then, my cat Sadie will catch a mole and usually I will find it laying by the side of the grass, where I always feel very sorry for these blind critters who have no eyes. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Sherrie

At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Sherrie said...

Sorry about the anonymous signature, the comments leave before I have a chance to say Hi, from Sherrie

At 11:40 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

Okay, Andy, don't blush. Sherrie, I know you will, but Andy will be the first to tell you: don't feel bad about it. Yes, I agree that Andy (Andreas, from Australia) is clever, but he isn't a girl, he's definitely a man, and he's got a fabulous wife, as he mentions in his site. His cat Jaffa even has a blog!

At 12:18 PM, Anonymous Sherrie said...

Hello Andreas, a note to tell you I am sorry for calling you a clever girl, when now I know, LOLL, that you are a clever fellow. Regards

At 8:27 PM, Blogger Andreas of Scarborough said...

Greetings Darlene and Sherrie,

Being Australian I can be perverse, but with kindness! You see, I pronounce my name as
An-dree-as, where the An is stressed as in Andrea. Most people around my neck of the woods call me Andy, because in Australia most names are abbreviated, and nicknames are common, too.

Before I startd school in the 1960s my family called me Andreas, but it must have been at school that my name was abbreviated to Andy. In high school I reverted to Andreas, but most of the kids called me Jock, which was derived from Andreas!

On the question of gender for Andreas/Andrea, there is a blind male singer called Andrea Bocelli!

So I hope you aren't too confused. But then isn't this a most delightful way to naturally clean the house of English pronunciation?

Kindest regards,

Andreas/Andy/Andrea et al!

At 10:59 AM, Blogger Darlene said...

My friend Mary Anne Five Wells has a problem with raccoons trying to get into the food in her bird feeders, and she's afraid they'll also go after the fish on her deck. "Floridacracker" over at Pure Florida suggests she could try either moth balls or cayenne pepper around the feeder or near the fish, but does anyone else have any ideas, or any tried & true method for raccoons?

At 4:00 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

How to discourage raccoons?Just received this "Raccoon Chaser Recipe" from my friend Amy, at Crunchy Domestic Goddess.

"Use this recipe to create an unpleasant experience for your local racoons. They often do not refrequent a place where they have had an unpleasant experience.
Try not to have accessible water nearby."

Captain Crunch Cereal(or similar sugar cereal),Marshmallows, Hot Tai Pepper, and Peanut Butter.

Mix in an old aluminum pie plate and place in areas where they do the most damage. Good luck!! :)

At 5:53 PM, Anonymous Mary Ann said...

Amy and Darlene,
Thank you! This sounds like just the thing for my little raccoons. I confess to some ambivalence. They're just so cute. But I know how terribly destructive they can be -- I can't really even train my dog. How would I teach a raccoon to respect my goldfish? :)

At 8:29 AM, Blogger Floridacracker said...

I am going to chime in on the mole problem, even though I am a late arrival.
I dug up a mole while gardening the other day and was amazed at how fast it disappeared back into the soil. Too fast for me to catch and photograph. Still, I know they can be an esthetic problem in a neat yard. Lucky me, my "yard" is in a natural (unruly) state so I don't see them as a pest.
This address:
offers a wide menu of solutions for mole control as well as some good information on the animal itself.
Personally, I couldn't use the lethal traps or harsh chemicals that are listed as options. I was glad to see they mentioned the pit trap which is simply a can or small bucket sunk into the ground along the mole runs. They have a good diagram of how to set this up. This trap allows you to catch the mole alive. You can then release it somewhere else...your neighbors yard is probably not a good idea.

At 2:53 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

Floridacracker, thank you so much! It's never too late to help, because then we have something to fall back on if nothing else works. Besides, this way people can choose between the various suggestions. Here's an active link to the site to make it easier to get there. Go to University of Missouri extension. John isn't kidding; this page really covers the life and habits of moles!

I so urge you to go to his site, too: You'll agree that his insight and knowledge about nature, along with his accompanying photos, are well worth the click.

At 7:21 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

Considering the amount of mercury being found in fish nowadays, it’s only natural that we’re wary about which ones are safe to eat and how often. A great site to visit is the Minnesota Department of Health’s Safe Eating Guidelines. Also, if you’re pregnant, may become pregnant, or have any children under age 15, be sure to click on their site's “Statewide Safe Eating Guidelines” link.

At 12:29 PM, Anonymous Hollis said...

Darlene makes a good point re: fish and mercury. Living in Upstate New York where we have an amazing sport fishery for salmon and steelhead, it is ashamed that we shouldn't eat them. These are marvelous fish, but loaded with toxins.

New York spends millions to promote and stock this fishery. And alwasy has to add the warning, not to eat, or to eat very little of these fish.

Sadly, I know many people on the low economic scale take these fish and eat them ... out of necessity.

Fortunately, given the pollutants in our world, that more and more farmers are going organic. Now we need to support them in such numbers that the prices drop and their food becomes accessible to even the poorest of the poor.

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Darlene said...

Isn't it a shame--fish, one of the most natural and healthy foods in existence--and we have to be afraid to eat it, or too much. My daughter, who's backpacking down in Peru, never cared much for fish before she left, but now she loves it. The people catch them fresh, throw them on the fire, and the flavor is outstanding. No worries about toxins, either.

What a shame, when she returns, that she'll have to monitor her fish consumption. At least Minnesota's are safer to eat, but our pollution problems are steadily growing.

As for organic produce, not only is it healthier, but the flavor is more distinctive, tastier. Just compare a backyard tomato, fresh off the vine, with any that are available in regular grocery stores.

I guess it's become a rule of thumb that whatever we rush to grow in mass quantities, then spray it instead of using natural "insecticides," usually loses its quality and taste. And cost is definitely the factor. Co-ops have to charge more for their organic foods too, which is why they don't get the support they need. So you're so right when you say that we need to support organic growers in such numbers that the prices drop, not just for the poor, but even for the average working stiff.

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Darlene said...

HAVE A GREAT GREEN LAWN (or garden) WITHOUT HAVING TO RELY ON PESTICIDES OR HERBICIDES. In his Sept. 5 post over at Rural Life 2.0, Hollis shows us how. It’s so simple, anyone, including mass producers, could use this method. Take a look; you’ll be as amazed as I was.

At 11:05 AM, Blogger Darlene said...

Forgot to add, Hollis' and my recent comments above here were made 9/5/05--Darlene

At 3:29 PM, Blogger Darlene said...


1. For GARDEN PESTS: Make a mixture of 1 tablespoon liquid dishwashing soap and 1 cup of cooking oil. Mix about 3 tablespoons of this concentrate with a quart of water in a pump bottle and spray on plants. OR: Soak citrus rind (lemon, orange, grapefruit) in water for a few days. Pour the water into a pump bottle and spray on plants.

2. FOR CATS: Sprinkle cayenne pepper around plants.

3. ANTS IN YOUR KITCHEN: Leave cucumber peel on a kitchen shelf, or try washing or spraying your cabinets with vinegar and water.

4. INSECTS: Keep a pot of basic, which is a natural insect repellent, in your kitchen. Take a few leaves with you on a picnic and put them out on the table to keep the flies away.

5. PESTS, including WEEVILS, IN YOUR PANTRY. Bay leaves in your pantry will keep pests away. A bay leaf in a container of flour, cornmeal, or cereal will keep weevils out.

6. ANTS & MICE: Plant peppermint around your house. It will keep ants out and also repels mice. Cinnamon sprinkled around your foundation is also said to keep ants out.

8. WEEDS: Boil some water and pour it over the plant you want to kill.

9. MOTHS: Mint teabags can be used in your clothing drawers or closet as a repellent.

These tips come from Cyndi Roberts, editor of the "1 Frugal Friend 2 Another" bi-weekly newsletter. Visit her website, 1 Frugal Friend 2 Another to find creative tips, articles, and a free e-cooking book.

At 3:59 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

10/18/05--Oops! For item #4 in the comment above here, alongside INSECTS, the word is supposed to be BASIL, not basic. Sorry!

At 1:43 PM, Blogger Dee said...

I got not found when I clicked on it but I am trying to find a natural way to keep my neighbors cats from making my flower garden their litter box. can you help?

At 6:26 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

HOW TO KEEP CATS OUT OF YOUR GARDEN Dee, thanks for coming to me! I've heard of several suggestions. Mostly, people swear that placing mothballs around a garden helps, because cats don't like the odor. They have to be replaced periodically, however, because of the rain, etc. Others suggest putting lemon peels or the peels from some other citrus fruit on the ground. You could even try pouring vinegar on the soil. A great method is laying chicken wire flat on the ground, because cats detest how it feels underfoot and won't walk on it, but that seems like a nuisance to me.

All I can do is suggest you try what's easiest for you from the above, and if that doesn't work, try another idea. If you're still stymied, come back here and I'll see what I can learn from some of my fellow bloggers, who have helped me in the past. Good luck! (11/16/05)

At 6:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there a natural spray of herbs or someting I can spray on my patio balcony to repel pigeons? One has already built a nest, and several others appear to want to do the same?

At 6:13 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

Re: DETERRING PIGEONS... I know of several people who had pigeons nesting on their porches and balconies, and not even tossing the nests off kept them from coming back and building another. Also, they left unhealthy droppings all over. What finally worked for them--they painted their porches! That kept the pigeons away in every instance!

Otherwise, I'm not aware of any natural sprays that work. If you'd rather not try this suggestion, just let me know and I'll check around. Thanks for posting! (6/13/06--Darlene)

At 12:31 PM, Anonymous Audrey said...

I heard that spraying peppermint soap would turn pigeons off to nesting on your roof. You might want to try Dr. Bonner's Pure-Castile Soap. I saw that one on line. I am now having the same problem, and I'm going to try it. Maybe you should try it too .. at least it's a natural way to attempt getting rid of them. I know the fake owl doesn't work, and I haven't heard of much else that does.

At 5:41 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

Thanks for the tip, Audrey. Hope it works!

When some friends of mine had pigeons nesting on their outdoor porch, they tried the fake owl, and as you related, it didn't work. The only thing that stopped them from returning was when their landlord cleaned up everything and then painted the entire porch... although about a year later the pigeons came back.

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