Monday, June 27, 2022 Jun 27, 2022
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Home & Garden

Mr. Brooks On Snakes, Birds, Growing Edibles, And More

Our resident know-it-all answers questions plaguing homeowners.
By D Magazine |
Illustration by Jack Gallagher

Tip of the Month

I’m awful with microwaves. Just ask my wife. I explode food as often as I heat it properly, which is why I was happy to hear (from Thelma Meyer herself) that Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day All Purpose Cleaner has a microwavable trick up its sleeve. Just spray a damp cloth with two squirts of the solution then nuke it for 20 seconds. Run the cloth over your microwave for a fresh smelling clean. And don’t worry, Mrs. Meyer’s products are environmentally friendly, are made of natural ingredients, aren’t tested on animals, and are biodegradable. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day available locally at Central Market, Whole Foods, and Sprouts.

Q: My property backs up to a creek. I’m worried about snakes in my yard. Is there any way to keep them away?
Mary Litten, Dallas

Mr. Brooks: The short answer, Mary, is no. The slightly longer answer is: No, and surely you knew you’d have critters visiting when you bought a creek-lined property.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox. I talked to several pest control companies, and they all told me the same thing “there are a few tricks you can try, but don’t hold your breath. You can put mothballs around the perimeter, but I find that only lasts a day or two, says Randy Windham, owner of A Better Earth Pest Control Inc. Windham also says a widely available product, Snake-A-Way, is just about as effective. But with each, he warns: Read the label of any product you use to make sure it doesn’t contaminate water or harm the environment. Other tips? Don’t allow standing water to accumulate, clear brush and debris regularly, and remove weeds and tall grass.

Best advice: Don’t forget that certain snakes are actually very helpful in reducing the number of pests you must deal with. Rats and mice, for example, won’t be a problem. Living near a water source, you’re going to encounter your fair share of wildlife. Don’t fight them; respect them and try to reduce their interest in your space.

Q: Because you are such an expert on birds and gardening, I hope you can answer my question. We noticed a nest of baby birds living just under the rooftop of our garage. Should we remove it? There is a tree right next to the nest; can we just move the nest there?
Sherleen Mahoney, Southlake

Mr. Brooks: Flattery might not get you anywhere in life, but it will get your question answered in this column. (FYI: I enjoy chocolate.)

But first things first, Sherleen. What type of birds do you have subletting your place? You’ll need to find out because many birds habitats are protected by law (house sparrows and pigeons being common exceptions). If your birds are protected, you’d be breaking the law by removing them. Setting up an alternate (and better) nesting area is an excellent way to coax them out of your eaves and into your trees, but mom and dad aren’t likely to make the move with a nest full of babies.

Basil plants are an easy way to add foliage and utility to your garden. Images from Getty

I spoke to Brett Johnson, urban wildlife biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, about your problem. He says it is best to let the family stay until the little ones are old enough to leave the nest. After that, promptly remove the nest (as long as it’s legal) and offer them better quarters nearby for next year. Don’t forget to put some chicken wire over the spot on your garage to discourage any future inhabitants.

Q: I want to get into growing edibles, but I’m not interested in a big vegetable garden? Any ideas?
Janice Busby, Dallas

Mr. Brooks: Plants that are pretty are great. Plants that are pretty and edible are really great. To that end, try herb gardens. They’re easy to grow if you’re willing to take the time to make sure they get the food, water, light, and pest control help they need. You can grow all sorts of cooking ad-ins (basil, parsley, etc.). But don’t stop there. Try your hand at lavender, spearmint, and peppermint. These versatile plants taste and smell great. I used some peppermint in the bath on a recent long, Sunday soak.

Having a domestic dispute with your home or garden? Don’t know where to turn? Just ask Mr. Brooks— [email protected].

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