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Squirrel be gone

BY KEITH STANGLER

Q: We have squirrels that just will not leave our bird feeders alone. We have the prettiest cardinals, chickadees, blue jays and other birds, but the squirrels just keep hogging the feeders. We have tried squirrel baffles and wire hanger with little success. Any other ideas?

A: Try the baffles and hangers, but also put out ear corn feeders for the squirrels. Also, mix "Squirrel Away" a red-pepper concoction that squirrels do not like but birds enjoy with the birdseed you put out. Make it tough, difficult, aggravating and down-right irritating for them on your bird feeders, but convenient, easy and inviting at the squirrel feeders. Now you can enjoy both the squirrels and the birds.

Q: Our family really likes eggplant and it can be used so many ways. We don't have a very large garden, so we try to get as many plants set there as possible. We usually set plants about one foot apart and our rows are about 2 feet apart. We do get lots of eggplant, but they are always smaller than we can buy and it just seems like the 12 plants we set out should produce more product. Is there some special plant food we should be using?

A: A good 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 fertilizer should be adequate for eggplant and most other garden vegetables. Apply at planting time, and because eggplant is a heavy user of nutrients like tomatoes and other large vegetable plants, side-dress by sprinkling a handful of fertilizer around each plant when it is about half-grown. I think you will be happier with the harvest if your space your plants about three feet apart in the row. For sure, you will harvest larger fruit and I think total pounds of fruit harvested will be more as well.

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Q: It seems like it cost more and more to care for a lawn these days. Fertilizer and weed control products keep going up. Are these products getting better and better? How can we keep a nice looking lawn and a balanced home budget?

A: In the past 10 years we have seen marked improvements in both fertilizer formulations and herbicides. But, as important, these changes have cost most homeowners absolutely nothing. Although, for whatever reasons, it may seem like these products are costing more, in actual fact they are not. Lawn fertilizer costs have been very stable over the past 10 years, while cost for many herbicides have actually gone down. Now, how many items in your home budget can claim that?

Keith Stangler of Byron is a horticulturist. If you have a question for him, call Post-Bulletin Special Sections Editor Jerry Reising at 285-7739 or (800) 562-1758.

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