Lawn Problems Part II, Tracking Down a Mystery Plant

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Q. Thanks for the item on getting rid of grubs in your lawn (Sept. 30). What do you recommend for mole problems?

- D.A.G and B.J.G,

via e-mail

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A. The moles are after either grubs or earthworms, which make up their principal diet, says Bill Winter, retail manager for Russell's Garden Center in Wayland, Mass.

After you've addressed the grub problem, one low-tech way to get rid of moles is by using Teaberry or Juicy Fruit chewing gum. Here's how: Find the active tunnel by tamping down all the raised spots in your yard. The next day, the place that's popped up again is your cue to the active tunnel. Wearing gloves so as not to leave a scent, use a pencil to poke a hole into the tunnel. Roll the stick of gum and place in the tunnel. The mole will eat the gum, but can't digest it.

Another tactic, Mr. Winter says, involves spraying a mole repellent that contains castor oil on the surface above tunnels. The moles will move elsewhere because they don't like the oil on their coats. Other methods: mole traps and smoke bombs.

Q. While in Scotland I noticed an unusual plant growing in rural gardens and along roads. It has spikey leaves like iris and sprays of bright red flowers. What is it?

- A.M.,

via e-mail

A. "Sounds like Crocosmia crocosmiiflora," says Christopher Andreae, who lives and gardens in Glasgow.

"A plant originally from South Africa, grown from corms, it is liked by some gardeners but thought a bit 'common' by snobby ones. A great survivor, crocosmia is admirably resistant to all neglect and undeterred by weeds, which is probably why it escapes so successfully from gardens to become naturalized. And gardeners who have too much of it often throw it over the wall, where it just keeps on going."

Mail-order companies in England and the US, such as White Flower Farm (www.whiteflowerfarm.com) in Litchfield, Conn., sell the newer, taller hybrids, such as 'Lucifer.' Crocosmia is generally planted in spring for summer bloom.

Readers: Pose your questions and we'll seek out experts on home repairs, gardens, food, and family legal issues. Send queries to the Homefront Editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail home@csps.com.

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