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More On Rats Plus Feeding Birds, Tar Spot On Maples, Moving Magnolias And Mole Away!
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

October 21, 2001

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My saucer magnolia (Magnolia soulangiana) and Yellow Bird (Magnolia ‘Yellow Bird’) are both in the back garden and thus far are insect-scale free. They were planted over a decade ago and five years ago respectively, but even if they had only been in for two years I’d hesitate to move either. Read on! Author photos.

Last week I probably told you more than you wanted to know about composting and rats! Subsequent to that piece, listener/reader Mary D. advised me further, that not only had the Region of Peel Health Department instructed folks in an area of Mississauga who were experiencing an infestation of rats, to stop composting, but they also advised the community to stop feeding the birds. When I talked with a representative of the Peel Health Board’s environment section this week he said that while they did make the recommendation of NOT feeding birds (ie. not putting seed/feed out in feeders), it was “not a command.” My reaction to that is not unlike my reaction to the draining of one’s ornamental pond in order to deprive rats of a place to drink (as mentioned last week); stopping all bird feeding is somewhat of an overreaction!
Surely, as mentioned last week, the answer is getting rid of the rats--a relatively easy project using a product such as Rodentex. 
Coincidentally, the Region of Peel Health department was in the news this week, yesterday specifically, because of another pest--mosquitoes. The Region’s medical officer of health, Dr. David McKeown, said that mosquitoes collected in traps south of the Queen Elizabeth Way in southern Mississauga tested positive for the West Nile virus at Health Canada’s national laboratory in Winnipeg. He said that there would definitely be an information programme to alert the public to use bug repellents and wear long clothes in the evening to reduce their risk of being bitten. West Nile virus causes swelling of the brain and can be fatal as was the case for eight persons four years ago in New York State.
One product line that I’ve been talking about on my programme since July this year is Doktor Doom ( a line of four insecticides that are much safer to use and much more effective than other so-called natural or “safe” products. They have products containing solely the “natural” Pyrethrum, or solely the water-based chemical Permethrin that is much safer than previous solvent-based insecticides (which have had to bear the poison label). While there are other products containing these ingredients currently on the market, there are no others that have the high percentages of these ingredients. One spraying of Doktor Doom’s House and Garden Insecticide Spray can remain effective for up to 60 days. They also have a product that can be used as an indoor space fumigator-exterminator. 
All of these products come in aerosol cans of various sizes and the products are CFC free. The main point, when considering the mosquito scare that apparently will definitely be with us in much of Canada beginning next spring is that at least one of the Doktor Doom line (Residual Insecticide Spray in a huge 650 gram pressure sprayer) is specifically for the control of mosquitoes. This means that with a simple (no odour) spray you can have your outdoor patio, deck or balcony protected from mosquitoes.
The Doktor Doom line has had limited distribution this year, but through the McKenzie Seeds people (1-877-625-3374), it should be widely available beginning next spring. In Ontario, Humber Nurseries, Hwy. 50, near Brampton; and Agram Garden Centre, Hwy. 5, Oakville, along with all HomeGrown Hydroponic stores, as well as many garden centre outlets in Alberta currently have stocks of most products, with many, many more outlets to be on line come next spring.
Last week while listening to another radio garden show I heard two “answers” to questions/problems that were, to say the least, lacking, if not incorrect and I thought I should set down the correct answers. One question had to do with large black spots on maple tree leaves. The host did not identify the problem as tar spot (Rhytisma acerinum), nor did he make any recommendation for control, other than suggesting that the affected trees be sprayed early in the season with dormant spray.
Tar spot is now common in many areas, especially on Norway and red maples. It appears as shiny irregular black spots often up to 2 cm in diameter on the upper sides of leaves. It can lead to premature leaf drop if the attack is bad. Dormant spray would not appear to be of any help. In fact, this fungus disease is generally not considered worthy of any special treatment. If it does get very bad, Ferbam should be applied when buds are opening, and repeated several times at two-week intervals.
One additional casual comment made by the host was that there would be no problem adding infected leaves to a compost pile. In fact, most home compost piles likely do not heat up enough to destroy the spores of the disease, but more importantly, if such leaves are composted, they should be immediately covered with a layer of garden soil. This will stop the spores from the infections from spreading in the garden. Having added that condition, the leaves are OK for composting, but do cover them to avoid further spread of the disease.
The second question came from the Montréal area, and was about the possibility of moving a saucer magnolia tree (Magnolia soulangiana) this fall. It had been in its location for three years. The host said that it would concern him if the tree had been planted for 30 years, but three seemed to be all right with him. Well, three years is not all right. Magnolias are one of the hardest trees/shrubs to transplant, especially if they’ve been planted any more than two years. What was even more interesting was that the host did not ask the caller if (and how well) the saucer magnolia had flowered. 
Saucer or other magnolias generally do not do well in the Montréal area. I’ve seen a few do reasonably well, but ever so many others that have not. My friend Pierre Bourque, former head of Le Jardin botanique de Montréal and now the city’s Mayor, have discussed this point on several occasions. So, where it is to be planted is obviously an important decision. And finally, magnolias simply do not transplant well (even in much milder parts of the country) if moved in the fall. They are one of a short list of trees that should be planted in the spring.
The last topic this week has to do with Mole control. With so many questions on this topic, some weeks ago I contacted Alex Fernandez, of Scrypton Systems in the U.S. They manufacture and market the very effective product Squirrel Away, and also have one called Mole Away. Squirrel Away is widely available in Canada. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Mole Away. Here is what Alex said in his reply: “The Mole Away product is not available in Canada due to their regulations but it can be purchased at We are giving a special deal until the end of the year if they purchase the four-pack four/$12.95 they get four for FREE. It has been a bad mole year and we have gotten a lot of requests. 
“We don't really have any more information except to say it does work. I had a call this year from a guy who tried everything and nothing worked; he even said he tried our product once. I told him I would send him some and he could try again. He called me and was so thankful it worked and he was mole free at last. 
“Please try not to put an article in a Canadian paper as they are not very happy when they can't get it there. We also cannot export it so that will not work.”
So, the only answer is to order (preferably before the end of the year) a quantity to be delivered to an address in the U.S. from which you can pick it up when next you visit the U.S.!

Art C. Drysdale, 6 Nesbitt Drive, Toronto, Ontario M4W 2G3

Art Drysdale is horticultural editor of Canada's oldest and fastest growing national gardening magazine, Plant & Garden. He heard Saturdays from 8:05 to 10 AM, with a live radio broadcast on Toronto's powerful and clear, AM740 CHWO Primetime Radio. He has Ontario’s largest radio gardening show audience!

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