Hello Fellow Readers,
There’s lots of spring building going on. We’ve had a robin flittering from here to there outside the kitchen window, making a nest in the viburnum. What a joy it will be to watch the miracle. We sure don’t feel the same way about other critters making nests, like the carpenter bees we spoke about last week, if they take up residence in your deck rails or siding.
I’ve always wondered why there are tips of branches with baby leaves scattered about in the spring. We came upon clusters of emerging oak leaves at Camp Mohican in Blairstown on Easter afternoon. Then dozens of tiny mops of maple leaves along the road during a walk with Miss Ellie. Just yesterday, there were bunches of baby beech leaves on the footbridge crossing our pond. A Google search proves the culprit is squirrels, likely building nests, as evidenced by the sharp cuts on the stems. If squirrels drop a cluster of leaves, and rather than retrieve it, they chomp another branch tip to use for their nest. Talk about being wasteful.
I also read that squirrels are fond of feeding on the buds themselves in late winter and early spring. Perhaps their littering of tree tips is in defiance that their spring bud feast has ended. Just kidding; I doubt they are that ungracious. Come fall, they’ll nibble branches loaded with nuts for easy pickings from the ground.
Some say squirrels chew branch tips to keep their teeth sharp or because they’re bored, which makes me smile. “Run around the house or run the vacuum” was dear old Mom’s fix-it when we’d complain about boredom. I never took her up on her suggestions, though.
How to remedy the litter of baby leaves? I stumbled upon an article about squirrel deterrents that mirror deer deterrents, such as hot pepper spray, mothballs, blood meal, and predator urine, all of which seem a long shot but hey, if you’re bored, maybe give it a try. Or accept squirrels’ antics as nature’s way of pruning. Unlike deer, they won’t devastate a tree.
While visiting clients in Piscataway, Kathy pointed out her new squirrel feeder, which looked like a large peanut butter jar poised on its side filled with sunflower seeds. It was suspended by a deck of sorts made of cedar. “The theory is if you feed the squirrels, it will prevent them from hoarding food from the bird feeders,” Kathy said, then confessed it wasn’t working. They now have more squirrels eating from the bird feeders. Maybe they are ungracious after all. Garden Dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com
You’ll enjoy the audio version of this story in the Garden Dilemmas Podcast –
Column updated 6/10/22