What do I do about lines of holes in my trees? Vertical or horizontal holes drilled into the trunks and major branches are caused by Yellow-bellied sapsucker, a cousin to woodpeckers. Unlike woodpeckers, sapsuckers rarely, if ever, bore into the bark looking for insects to feed on. They generally feed on the sap weeping from the holes in the wood.

These migratory birds travel Northward through spring and early summer, returning to southern regions in the fall. These drilled holes almost never cause the death of a tree, but may be seen as unsightly. As these birds are a protected species, exclusion may be the only method of control. A couple of tight wraps of a mesh screen may block access to trunks or major branches. This should be weighed against the loss of landscape appeal.  Some people say the sound of pecking on the hard wood is a soothing sound. Get more information on this and other wood borers in the OSU Fact Sheet-7326.

What vegetables can I plant at this time? Early varieties mostly have planting start dates beginning Feb. 15.  These include onions (seed, plants or sets); carrots, green peas, spinach or turnip seeds; cabbage and cauliflower plants; head and leaf lettuce plants or seeds. Often gardeners plants onions, carrots, radishes and potatoes early, with risk of cold injury in mind. The Oklahoma Garden Planting Guide FS-6004 will give guidelines on planting times for most vegetables, or look on the package label. Know your cold hardy zone number.

Please give me information on bed bugs: There is no need to be embarrassed by bed bugs. The finest homes and the classiest hotels can be infested. It may be best to contact a qualified pest control company for treatment.  Of the five steps toward home treatment, (1) is inspection: Check bed and box springs, furniture legs, behind pictures. If you see these small 6 legged flat bodied insects or brownish spots which may be bloody fecal matter, you have bed bugs. If you see no sign, (2) may be monitoring: Climb-up traps under furniture legs or sticky traps wrapped around legs, sticky side out helps to capture bugs and prevent them from getting into the bedding. Step (3) is installing mattress encasements for mattress and box-springs. Vacuuming floor and edges of wall will help capture any existing bugs. A clean and organized room, (4) eliminates hiding places and makes any bug incursion easier to spot.  (5) Over-the-counter pesticides are sometimes ineffective. I recommend a professional service for this treatment, keeping in mind reentry time and any airing needed after treatment.  When traveling do your own inspections and never place your luggage on the carpet or bed; use existing luggage racks or dresser tops as best you can. 

If unsure of exposure upon returning home bag all bedding, towels or clothing and wash and dry immediately. Bag your luggage and keep away from moisture sources.   

A dryer cycle will kill adult bugs and eggs. If items cannot be machine washed, dry clean or place them in a hot dryer for quicker results. When thrift shopping, be aware bed bugs can hide in cracks, tiny holes and upholstery seams. Do a thorough flashlight-search inside of all items. These bugs can live for up to a year without a blood meal. Look for signs of any type of bug infestation in anything you purchase used.  

I can no longer garden the ground: what should I consider when establishing raised beds?  In your situation raised beds may extend your gardening abilities for many years.  Beds should be narrow enough 3ft to 4ft, to reach all areas from one or the other side.  These can be as long as you want but it makes for better gardening if you build several beds.  

Level the areas and secure 1/2 inch hardware cloth to the bottom as a barrier to mice moles voles or gophers.  The height should be so you can reach all areas without straining across the bed. Sides may be built with non-treated lumber, metal sheeting, cement blocks or any stackable material. You should have a 2 to 4 inch ledge on top to prevent cuts and damage to the sides. Start filling your beds with most any decomposing material you can fine: branches, limbs, leaves, vines, torn up cardboard or newspapers or garden trimmings and vegetable scraps.  This should be covered with good quality, seed-free garden soil and about 4 inches of decomposed compost.  

Mix the soil types well; then take a soil sample to your local County Extension Office: they will give you instructions on collection of a proper soil sample. Keep your bed well-watered to promote settling and early decomposition while waiting for the results of you soil test. Make any recommended additions to the bed and mix in well. Planting schedules should be the same as with in-ground gardening. OSU Fact Sheet-6033 has much more information on raised bed gardening.

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