Monday, April 26, 2010

Environmentally Friendly Solutions to Three Common Problems

WA4 Window Alert Decals 
First Problem: Birds Banging Into Office Windows
Some weeks ago now I blogged about a hawk attack which involved a crash into my ground-floor office window. The hawk survived and got its meal.

On Earth Day there was a smaller thud and we looked out to see a dazed wren; we didn’t even know they were frequenting the yard. We decided to take some action. We knew our nearly-local birding store, The Fat Robin, would have the answer. So the next morning we pooled some trips and made the Fat Robin the third stop. They had just the thing, a product called WindowAlert, a set of four vinyl decals, available in several patterns, for applying to the outside of your windows. Almost invisible to our eyes, they are plainly visible to the birds. The manufacturer claims, “The decal contains a component which brilliantly reflects ultraviolet sunlight.This ultraviolet light is invisible to human, but glows like a stoplight for birds…WindowAlert decals help birds ‘see’ window and thus avoid striking the glass.” At a mere $5.99 per set, it seemed worth a try. So far so good. No thuds since we installed four hummingbirds on each window. WindowAlert has received rave reviews and in 2007 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) awarded it the National Proggy Award for Best Humane Wildlife Innovation. It is also made in the USA, and packaged by a group “Empowering People with Disabilities.”

Second Problem: Mosquito Season Imminent
Two Saturdays ago there was a special event at the Yale Peabody Museum called “Bio-Diversity Bites Back.” Representatives from a number of local agencies, including the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, were at the museum that day to talk about how to best protect yourself when spending time outdoors. (Gone are the days when you can just head to the beach or the woods without worry. Sigh.) One of the topics was West Nile Virus, a mosquito-borne disease, which is on the rise in Connecticut. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in shallow water. The simplest means of protection? Prevention — keep any eggs from hatching. Eliminate all standing water on your property. Two of the biggest culprits? Bird baths and flower pots. By merely emptying the water in the flower pots and changing the water in the bird bath every 48 hours, you will prevent any mosquito eggs from becoming larvae. The handout further cautioned that even the smallest amount of water can breed hundreds to thousands of mosquitoes.

Third Problem: Slugs Love My Tender Plants
I don’t recall having this problem years ago, but I certainly have it now. There are tiny slugs under every flowerpot, and large ones stuck to the lid of the compost bin when I lift it to dump my scraps. Their luminescent trails criss-cross the bluestone walks and the lower windows. In summer there are nightly slug fests on the cool wall at my back entrance. The slugs love to eat the coleus I plant under the apple tree and the leaves of the salvia I plant in pots near the bed of hosta and pachysandra. I try to put the young plants out of reach, but many fall victim to these naked, nocturnal, far-reaching gastropods and their voracious appetites.

I had heard once that if you pour them some beer, they will drink it and drown. Well, they must have known I poured them the cheap stuff, because that trick didn’t work.

My West Coast son has had his own slug wars. They bothered his plants. He was reluctant to give them beer. But when one determined slug slimed his way across his patio threshold and was discovered well into living room territory, that was the last straw. At the East Palo Alto Home Depot they offered Dan a solution — copper tape. He was told that slug slime reacts with the copper to produce an electrical shock, and that if he laid tape on the threshold, the slugs would not cross over. It worked! The slugs have been keeping to their side of the line ever since then.

For some reason the East Coast Home Depots don’t stock this item, but you can find it online. Copper is pricey, so it is a bit impractical to think you can create a total anti-slug force field. But you can use it selectively around your most prized potted specimens. At Van Wilgen’s Garden Center, in Branford, a couple of towns over, you can purchase ready-made handcrafted SlugsBeGone baskets, with a ring of copper around the top, fabricated by an enterprising baby boomer, a teacher in his former life. If you are extraordinarily frugal and have plenty of time on your hands, you can harvest your own copper from electrical wiring as Mags from the UK did on the thriftyfun site. I have already sold my old wiring at the scrap yard and don’t have quite that much time. But I plan to roll out some tape before setting my babies out for the summer. I do hope I won’t have to share my best beer.

1 comment:

  1. I have used diatomaceous earth to control slugs with good results. It has the abrasiveness of pumice & scores the slugs' tender widdle undersides, if they try to crawl across it. The only problem is that you have to re-apply after rainfall.