Cocoa Bean Mulch Poison for Pets!

For years, I have longed for the sweet-smelling cocoa bean mulch for my garden, after hearing it mentioned numerous times on TV gardening shows. But now it seems that it can be harmful to pets if ingested. You can imagine how a dog with a sweet tooth might taste cocoa bean mulch, since it smells just like chocolate, which also is harmful to dogs. If you'd like to read more, go to Pet Poison Alert - Cocoa Bean Mulch.

Guineas in the Garden

My 8 year old little boy has been removing his own ticks for about 3 years now. When tick bites are so common that a 5 year old begins removing ticks on his own, it's time to do something! But what? We tried everything. Really. But what works?

Our garden is much too large to make pesticide application affordable, but we did try that, before the chickens joined our family. We just can't remember to apply insect repellent every time we go outside, and that also gets expensive when you spend all day outdoors as we do.

A few years ago when our little girl received an Easter gift of 2 baby chicks, we thought that might help. And really, it has...some. But after my husband was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, we realized the seriousness of the situation. It terrifies me to know that one of my children could encounter that dreaded disease that leads to a life of joint problems.

Last fall an adored friend of ours gave us a gift for which we are very grateful. He hatched out for me 4 Guineas! (He hatched them in an incubator.) I've been told ticks are a favorite treat for guineas, and they will eat hundreds of them. We're so excited, and we'll let you know in the summer if we see a decrease in the number of ticks latched on to our tender areas!

I must tell you that I don't know much about Guineas, but I have found a wonderful site that is a wealth of information on Guineas, including some very entertaining photos and captions. It's worth your time to take a look at I don't know the author personally, but on her site you can learn all about guineas, because after all, she wrote the book on Gardening With Guineas! (Yes, really--you can order it from her website!)

Privet Is An Invasive Plant! Don't Plant It In Your Garden!

Many invasive plants are still commonly sold and planted here in the Southeast. One still popular but very invasive plant that should not be planted in your garden is the Chinese Privet. Once planted, this invasive shrub is difficult to eradicate. Privet produces tiny berries by the hundreds that are eaten by birds and planted all over the neighborhood. Very soon privet begins popping up in nearby woods and meadows, developing tight thickets that crowd out native plants. I find it ridiculous that privet is still so widely sold and recommended for hedge plantings.

Privet is often chosen at garden centers when the homeowner is looking for a privacy hedge or evergreen shrub that is easy to grow. There are many better choices out there, since just about any plant is better than privet. For alternatives to privet, try visiting your local native plant nursery or a locally owned nursery. There you will find a knowledgeable nurseryman that would have suitable alternatives to privet.

Some plants to consider instead of privet:

  • Viburnum - some species are evergreen, most produce large flowers in spring and showy berries in fall, as shown in the above photo. There are both native and non-native varieties.
  • Roses provide showy blooms and easy care, if you choose a carefree shrub rose. In addition to beauty, the thorns on most shrub roses can provide a barrier for intruders if that's your goal.
  • Holly. Whether you choose an American native variety or not, holly provides berries and beautiful foliage. Some species are evergreen and even variegated. Holly is a favorite of birds as a food source and nesting site.

When planning a hedge, I always suggest a mixed shrub border rather than a long row of the same plant. A mixed shrub border can provide beauty and interest 12 months a year, and with variety, you can provide food and shelter for birds and other desirable wildlife. Plants with berries should be included as a food source, and birds love to build nests in thick bushy shrubs with spines or prickly leaves. When you have a variety of plantings in your garden, you are contributing toward diversity that is important for preservation of the environment.