Living with the animals in your landscape

If you have a landscape, you have animals.

Rats live in old neighborhoods and new. They are attracted to food, water and a cozy place to live and breed. Whether a dry crawl space or romantic attic, rats will burrow, climb or flatten themselves to fit into most any place. If you have a compost pile make sure you do not add dairy or meat. It's fine to add kitchen scraps but the dairy or meat products are enticements to any rat.

Birdfeeders also attract rats with their fresh content or what has fallen to the ground. If you've found the perfect birdfeeder that resists rats, or squirrels, you still have the issue of food spilling to the ground. Sweep the droppings regularly to prevent rat and squirrel problems.

Squirrels adore scratching and scarring the beautiful bark on my 'Natchez' crepe myrtles. Admittedly, not a major problem but a huge dent in the aesthetic pleasures of life.

Squirrels also like to get into your attic. Find where they enter and close the access. Then you'll have to use a trap to catch the squirrels. Recently, within the past five years, help has arrived to control the squirrel population more easily - hawks.

When squirrels appear in my landscape I know they will deface my trees for about three weeks. The hawks do their job; they're happy, I'm happy and the squirrels have passed into the realm of organic gardening. Why does anyone think organic gardening is a sweet proposition?

Happily I do have possums in my landscape. They eat small animals and insects. It's a precious thought knowing they adore feasting on slugs. Throughout my years of gardening I've let the possums do their thing. Perhaps it's a delusion but I've delegated some organic gardening duties to them. And they comply.

Birds are desirable friends in the landscape but they, too, have inherent personality traits which are stressful. They, especially the robins, like to eat earthworms. A conundrum. You work for years creating soil rich in earthworms making your plants happy and then greedy robins arrive to eat your worker worms. Again, back to organic and wondering what is simplistic about it.

Moles are furry eyeless creatures content to tunnel in your soil and feast upon your roots. They are residents to be evicted. None of the store-bought treatments are good at evicting them. Back to organic with a neighborly cat intent upon dispatch. Possums have a set of teeth serenely capable of ridding moles from your landscape.

Rats, birds, moles, squirrels and possums are the most common landscape animals. If your goal is to handle the situation organically it can be done. Happily, you can banish rats to a rare occurrence. Unfortunately, birds eating earthworms in an organic landscape will be common. Simply take it as a sign your landscape is performing properly and you are witnessing the great drama of life.

Stone Mountain resident Tara Dillard designs, installs and writes about gardens. Her most recent books include "Garden Paths and Stepping Stones" and "Perennials for Georgia." E-mail her at taradillard@agardenview.biz or visit www.agardenview.biz.